ZJM @ New Mandarin Garden
Saw Korean ZJM on TV and made me want ZJM. I remembered that New Mandarin Garden in SSF has a version on their Korean menu and went there to try.
Korean jajangmyeon is based on the Chinese zha jiang mien (ZJM) from Shangdong province. It's basically noodles with a bean sauce of some sort over it. I asked for the ZJM from their Korean menu. Th waitress made sure that I wanted the Korean version rather than their Taiwanese version. She warned me, "It's black." I confirmed that indeed I wanted the black sauce version.
This was everything the TV version made me hanker for. The noodles were toothsome, the sauce was sweet and smoky. The crisp cumbers provided a nice contrast. The waitress mentioned that when most people order ZJM, they give them the Taiwanese version (which they say has dried bean curd). In fact, she told me that their Cantonese clientele HATE the Korean ZJM. I wonder why? I must come back to try the TW ZJM.
I really enjoyed ZJM here the 2nd to last time I went, though I think I got the Taiwanese version at the time and it was still great.
For the most recent visit, the XLBs were nowhere as good as the first visit, although when I requested black vinegar I got it.
We got the Da Lu Mien, which was an interesting thick egg drop kind of broth, very flavorful with veg, mushroom, and 4 large pieces of shrimp. The broth was excellent nonetheless. The noodles were really really toothsome maybe not cooked enough, but it really tasted hand made as the storefront sign above the entrance claimed to be.
Green onion pancakes here are excellent. Sufficient scallions used, and extra crispy as they deep fry vs bake. And the end result is not very oily at all, which is great.
re: Melanie Wong
Answering my own question, last week I stopped by for a late lunch to try the chao ma mian.
New Mandarin Garden's chao ma mian -
The noodles themselves are excellent and very chewy. But the rest, not so good. Exactly two pieces of shrimp and two pieces of squid leg, most of the protein was contributed by sea cucumber (not my favorite). I will say that the strips of pork were smooth and succulent. Can't really comment on the broth as it was so spicy hot, I'd start to choke when I tried to drink it. I did brave a few spoonfuls, after breaking the surface tension of the chili oil and trying to get to the liquid underneath it. Good depth to the stock, and I'd like to try other soup noodles here.
I noticed another table eating what they called "fried bread" with sweetened condensed milk --- anyone tried this? Or the Korean-Chinese set dinner menus?
I finally returned to New Mandarin Garden in SSF to try their other zha jiang mien (ZJM) version. It's their "Taiwanese" version. The noodles here were the same toothsome, hand-pulled kind used in the Korean version. But the sauce was different. So first off, the Korean version uses black beans and the sauce ends up very black whereas this one uses a more brownish bean sauce. You can also see bits of ground pork and dried bean curd diced up in this version along with some green onions and I think bamboo shoots (well, there's some kind of diced vegetable in the sauce for texture). The Korean version only of had diced up fatty pork (not ground).
I really thought I was going to like this version better seeing the servers had said that most Chinese people like this version and seeing that my palate is skewed Taiwanese. But I didn't. The sauce was very sweet for a Chinese style bean sauce. Sweet isn't a flavour I find great with dried bean curd. I wish the prominent note had been salty instead. It wasn't bad but the taste wasn't exactly addictive either. I'm sticking with the Korean version next time.
Does anyone know whether ZAZANG KOREAN NOODLE place is still viable? Located on Geary, SF, near Kaiser? it was the first place I had this dish, and now my appetite has been piqued!