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JunJiangMein- My Jones and Korea's Noodle Comfort Food

opinionatedchef Sep 27, 2011 04:00 PM

O.k., i've been on a CH prowl this last week , finally taking up the scent for this 'black bean noodle' dish that i so loved long ago at Asiana Grill in Arlington (RIP). I should first explain that this black bean sauce is NOT like the salty chinese sauce one might be familiar with. This is a very very thick dark black sauce with many layers of subtle flavor, usually served over chewy wheat noodles with minced pork, onion, potato, zucchini. Except to say that it has a soy component, i regret that i really cannot describe the flavor. Some CHs have alluded to mushroom flavors or nuttiness or smokiness. Not sweet imo. So now I've had 3 other Boston versions, but none as good as Asiana(as i recall, that is). BTW, i don't think any 2 restnts spell it the same.

-BukKyungI- as described and delicious but no discernible pieces of meat, potato etc.-too pureed.

Wonderful noodles appear irregular/homemade.

-- Young Chow Loo in HMart Food Court- ja jung myun as described; v good flavor but miniscule amount of zucchini, no potato, and way too much onion. (Maybe i'd bring this home and add more protein and vegetables.)

The seafood version, jeng banja jang, was a huge plate of fresh food and good amount of shrimp, squid, some scallop asnd mussels, but sauce not as thick or deeply flavored; needed some spunk, and wayyy too much onion with raw acid flavor.

--Cafe LuLu- (#D9 is HongKong Style jia jiang mein- which, here, means strips of red sweet and sour pork over yellow wheat vermicelli.) What you want is #D9, but TAIWAN Style- you will get a slightly spicy unctuous chopped pork black bean bolognese over thick wheat noodles.(loaded w/ pork). yum. but not korean, not dark black sauce.

I hope you will pitch in with descriptions of ones you have tried.

** Btw, does anyone know if MSG is a given with this dish- because it's almost always made with a prepared black bean sauce component( or base) that contains msg? (as is the case w/ 99.9% of instant packaged dashi bases.)

Buk Kyung I (Hometown Restaurant)
9 Union Sq Suite A, Somerville, MA 02143

Cafe de Lulu
42 Beach St, Boston, MA 02110

  1. g
    gimlis1mum Sep 27, 2011 06:43 PM

    Hi OC - you didn't ask for a recipe, but I found one:


    She includes a link with a picture of the black bean paste container (the paste is made from roasted soybeans, as opposed to the Chinese fermented soybeans/paste that you mentioned). Not sure if it contains MSG, but I'm guessing no...

    Now I have to try this recipe - gotta get to HMart soon!!

    3 Replies
    1. re: gimlis1mum
      opinionatedchef Sep 27, 2011 07:00 PM

      Th you,mum, so interesting. i must say, the sauce tastes so much more complacted than the recipe.
      roasted soybeans eh!

      1. re: gimlis1mum
        threedogs Sep 28, 2011 06:17 AM

        Thanks so much for this link - I checked the label of my black bean paste I picked up at the Korean/Japanese store in Inman Sq - and it says soybeans in the ingredients! So I guess that's what I've got here. Can't wait to try this!

        1. re: gimlis1mum
          opinionatedchef Sep 29, 2011 06:30 PM

          mum, can't thank you enough for the link. i'm going to make this soon! she's a hot ticket isn't she? videos and all!

        2. Luther Sep 28, 2011 03:33 AM

          By "MSG" do you mean the high sodium and glutamate content inherent in preserved black beans, or specifically MSG that is prepared from another source and then mixed with beans and salt?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Luther
            opinionatedchef Sep 28, 2011 10:26 AM

            i mean MSG as a product.

          2. threedogs Sep 28, 2011 06:22 AM

            I know you didn't ask spec. for this, but I learned a lot about MSG in this article: http://vietworldkitchen.typepad.com/b...

            Really interesting. Opened my eyes & changed my previous aversion to all things w/MSG (esp w/the use of so much Parmesan cheese in our house, lol).

            Apparently, it can give dishes a depth of flavor (according to the author).

            1 Reply
            1. re: threedogs
              opinionatedchef Sep 28, 2011 10:30 AM

              aha, got yourself a new photo; that's a good graphic! thanks so much for that link. v. interesting; i need to read further i guess.In case you missed it, there have been a number of CHs recommending Bragg's Liquid Amino, which you can buy at WF. I got the spray and really like it for some things that just want an extra kick.

            2. tammyh Sep 28, 2011 01:11 PM

              I love how you're so detailed, thorough and persistent in your search for jajang myun!

              I was curious as to what "HK style" zha jiang mien would look like, as I've never heard of the dish in a Canto setting ... it all makes sense now. maybe it's a concoction specific to Cafe de LuLu?

              3 Replies
              1. re: tammyh
                opinionatedchef Sep 28, 2011 08:07 PM

                tammy, for some reason, i have the distinct feeling that if YOU went down there, you'd be able to find that out!

                1. re: opinionatedchef
                  opinionatedchef Sep 29, 2011 11:52 AM

                  tammy, i think this might have come off wrong- i just meant that i'm guessing that you can talk the talk, (but i speak no asian language save japanese).

                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                    tammyh Sep 29, 2011 12:11 PM

                    oh don't worry, I was actually wondering what to say as to not disappoint you since I'd probably ask them the same questions anyone else would ... in English. :)

              2. opinionatedchef Sep 29, 2011 12:04 PM

                related to Young Chow Loo at H Mart: i tried their meat buns but really did not like them.
                yes, hefty and lots of filling, but filling is way too scallion (like 50-70% I'd say, flavor wise.) and no ginger or other seasonings.took a bite and tossed them.

                1. j
                  joonjoon Sep 29, 2011 08:42 PM

                  Hey opinionatedchef,

                  Just FYI the correct Korean pronunciation for this dish is ja jang myun. The chinese equivalent would be ja jang mein.

                  Jeng Ban is the Korean word for "platter," and does not necessarily denote seafood. Jeng Ban Ja Jang is usually a larger serving served on a platter instead of a bowl. The proper terminology for seafood Ja Jang Myun is "Sam Sun Ja Jang Myun."

                  As far as MSG, it all depends on the restaurant.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: joonjoon
                    opinionatedchef Sep 29, 2011 10:04 PM

                    thanks joon; that makes perfect sense. do you know- is it common to find korean and japanese restnts in chinese cities? or is it more that korean and japanese dishes are often incorporated into urban chinese restnt menus?

                    1. re: opinionatedchef
                      joonjoon Sep 30, 2011 10:27 AM

                      I've never been to China so I can't help you with your first question. I'm not from this area, but in my neck of the woods (NJ) it's extremely rare for a Chinese joint to serve Korean or Japanese fare, with the exception of some sushi and teriyaki dishes, and Chinese joints that serve Chinese style JJM. There's one Chinese restaurant that has a "secret" Korean menu though, and it's run by Korean Chinese. Maybe that's what you're getting here...

                      1. re: joonjoon
                        Allstonian Sep 30, 2011 10:44 AM

                        I think opinionatedchef may have things backwards. It's my understanding that the two Buk Kyung restaurants specialize in Chinese-style dishes that are popular in Korea, including ja jang myun. So the Chinese version is the "original" dish, and ja jang myun is the Korean take on that, similar to how ramen is a Japanese take on a Chinese noodle dish.

                        1. re: Allstonian
                          Prav Sep 30, 2011 11:27 AM

                          You are correct. "Buk kyung" means "Beijing", in fact.

                          1. re: Allstonian
                            opinionatedchef Sep 30, 2011 11:49 AM

                            well how bout that! had no idea. how very interesting. but then again, EVerything originated in china,right? :-}

                    2. y
                      youngho Sep 30, 2011 08:44 AM

                      Based on the dozens of times I've had it there, the jajangmyun at Buk Kyung in Allston should have small pieces of meat, as well as minced onion and zucchini. No potato. Also, I recommend getting the ganjajang (the sauce is sauteed first, so it's thicker). The noodles are quite good.

                      Buk Kyung
                      MA, MA

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