Apparently, Valentine's Day is celebrated by singles in South Korea by getting together and eating jjajungmyeon. I asked a Korean friend about this tradition, and he said that it's because, like spaghetti, it's one of those dishes that you don't want to eat on a date because it can get really messy. Good enough for me.
When I found out that some of my friends were going to go to a Korean restaurant to eat this last Thursday, I was like, you know it's really easy to make at home, right? Which somehow turned into me making a last minute Asian grocery store run and hosting 4 single guys on Valentine's Day. Sigh.
That same Korean friend pointed me to this recipe saying that it's pretty authentic except that he fries the sauce separately from the rest of the ingredients and then adds it in. Which I guess is where the name of the dish comes from; it literally translates to "fried sauce noodles". There's a Chinese version of this dish too, but it uses a soybean paste versus the black bean paste that's used in the Korean version.
The traditional noodles used for this dish are flat white wheat noodles, similar in shape to fettuccine. If you can't find them, you can try substituting with fettuccine, but you'll want to cook the noodles past al dente so that they're pretty soft (but not falling apart).
Jjajungmyeon (adapted from Maangchi)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 medium daikon radish, diced into 1 cm cubes (about 2 cups worth)
2 medium zucchinis, diced into 1 cm cubes (about 2 cups worth)
2 medium potatoes, diced into 1 cm cubes (about 2 cups worth)
4 small onions, chopped
Heaping 1/2 cup of jjajung (Korean fermented black bean paste)
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Jjajungmyeon noodles, cooked
Heat a large pan on medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cubed daikon and stir fry for about a minute.
Add the diced zucchini, potato, and onions and stir fry until the potato is translucent, about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, in a small sauce pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the jjajung and stir fry for about a minute.
Add the fried sauce to the vegetables and add four cups of water. Once the sauce is boiling, lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook until the vegetables are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Mix the cornstarch and sugar in 1/4 cup of water. Add to the sauce and stir until it thickens. Add the sesame oil and mix.
Portion out the cooked noodles into large bowls. Top with the sauce and mix well.
I think the best part about this dish is how cheap it is; I spent less than $15 to feed all five of us, plus I had enough leftovers for one more meal!
Next: Cauliflower Steak with Cauliflower Purée
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