My Zha Jiang Mian: A Recipe for Food Expectations

Food Expectations and I often compete when it comes to who is more horrendous at being the Lady of the House. I don’t much care for losing, but in this instance, having once told me that she doesn’t even know how to use her own washing machine, I think she takes the medal. I am certainly not winning any awards…but at the very least, I can say I have the ability to utilise household appliances in order to get shit done. Whether or not I choose to exercise this ability is another story.

That said, the one thing I am very good at, from a home duties perspective, is making sure that the house gets fed…and that it gets fed well. Whilst the thought of coming home from work and then slaving over the stove for an hour or two may sound like a nightmare to many, for me it is quite the opposite. In fact, there is nothing I love more than coming home after a long day and pottering around the kitchen, glass of wine in hand, prepping something delicious for dinner. I find it therapeutic and nine times out of ten, I actually prefer to do this than to go out for dinner during the week.

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Clockwise from top left: pork and prawn wontons; rack of lamb with mashed peas and jus; five spice duck breast with spicy udon noodles and pickled cucumber; Thai red curry roasted poussin with pea shoot salad.

Having spent the past couple of weeks travelling, I have returned to my kitchen with a renewed sense of drive and have been more than happy to expel all the necessary energy to shop, prep and cook more or less every night of the week. I have even gathered motivation to try some new dishes out and get some additional favourites into my repertoire!

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Pan-seared sirloin steak with green papaya salad.

Seeing my latest kitchen foray on Instagram, Food Expectations immediately texted me requesting the recipe. Anything to help her improve her wife skills and get me winning at being the worst…

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So, here it is! My take on the classic Chinese noodle dish, zha jiang mian. Although I throw this reference around loosely, given mine is a very rough approximation of the original. Replaced with chewy strands of udon, the wheat noodles do not make an appearance in my version. Furthermore, instead of relying on the black bean-simmered pork as the sole source of flavour, I have laced the noodles with a spicy black vinegar and chilli dressing and used the pork to top it all off. Tradition has never really been my thing…big, bold flavours are what counts here!

Happy Cooking, Food Expectations xo

Ps. You can’t say I never do anything for you!

Noodles
Spicy noodles with seasoned mince pork and quick-pickled cucumbers.

Spicy Noodles with Minced Pork
Serves 4

For the Pork
Peanut oil
6 spring onions, the white part thinly sliced into rounds
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
400g free range pork mince
2 tbsp black bean sauce
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
350mL good quality chicken stock
600g udon noodles*

For the Chilli Dressing
1/4 cup light soy
2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar**
1 tbsp chilli oil***
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

To Serve
1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into julienne
Toasted sesame seeds

Place a wok on the stove over medium-high and heat enough peanut oil to cover its base before adding the white part of the spring onion, as well as the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry until fragrant (around 1 minute). Add the pork and continue to stir-fry, breaking up any large clumps with a wooden spoon, until browned (approximately 3-4 minutes).

Stir to combine the black bean, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Shaoxing and stock before adding it to the pork mixture. Simmer until the sauce reduces right down and thickens. This may take a little time…20-30 minutes perhaps? You should receive a clean line when dragging a spatula across the bottom of the pan.

Zhajiangmian.jpg

For the chilli dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until the sugar has dissolved. Cover with cling film and stand to one side until ready to use.

Cook the udon noodles as per packet instructions. Stir through the chilli dressing and toss to coat the noodles well before dividing them evenly amongst four bowls. Top with a generous spoonful of the pork mixture, followed by the julienned cucumber and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

NB: in addition to the julienned fresh cucumber, last night I served my bowl up with thinly sliced cucumber quick-pickled in rice wine vinegar with a pinch of salt and a dash of sesame oil [as per picture above], which I thought worked really well. Feel free to take a leaf out of my book!

* If I am doing a no-fuss midweek dinner, I often use Amoy Straight to Wok pre-packaged thick udon noodles…a cheeky shortcut, but they work quite well. Available in Waitrose.

Amoy Noodles

**Chinkiang branded vinegar is my favourite and should be available at all good Asian grocery stores.

Chinkiang

 

***I use the brand of chilli oil below, which I found at my local Asian grocery store. It adds a really excellent flavour, I like the pieces of fried chilli and its colouring appeared more natural than some other brands available on the shelf.

Chilli Oil

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8 Comments

    1. I am the worst wife ever. No washing machine and I make porridge for dinner. I must improve and your recipes make it happen. Stewart still raves about the chicken with the tomato rice….and the soba with salmon! I even have that chilli oil., wohooooo

    1. You’re both selling @FoodExpectations short… have you seen our vacations?

      1. This is true! I think @foodexpectations could run rings around the organisational skills present in our household…

      1. I’m the same!! I love eating out but a solid trip of only dining in restaurants…I start to crave home cooked food. And I do start missing the time I spend messing around in my kitchen. xx

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