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|Alternative names||noodles with soybean paste, noodles with fried bean sauce|
|Type||Chinese noodles, Banmian|
|Place of origin||Shandong, China|
|Main ingredients||cumian, pork, fermented soybean paste|
|Literal meaning||"fried sauce noodles"|
Zhajiangmian (Chinese: 炸酱面; pinyin: zhá jiàng miàn), commonly translated as "noodles served with fried bean sauce", is a dish of Chinese origin consisting of thick wheat noodles topped with zhajiang, a soybean-based sauce. Variations may include toppings of vegetables, beans, meat, tofu, or egg. In the Western press, it is occasionally dubbed "Beijing bolognaise" due to its superficial similarity (both dishes involve noodles with minced meat sauce) and ubiquitous nature.
Zhajiangmian originated in Shandong, China and is a popular dish that has evolved into distinct versions across many cuisines both within and beyond China. The most well-known variation is arguably Beijing zhajiangmian (北京炸酱面), which is recognized as one of the Ten Great Noodles of China (中国十大面条). Zhajiangmian has also been adapted into the traditional cuisines of South Korea (as jajangmyeon), and Japan (as jajamen).
Theories of origin
There are several theories of zhajiangmian's origins, many of which revolve around Chinese monarchs. The veracity of these claims is tenuous as important inventions in Chinese history were frequently attributed to prominent leaders and figures of the time. One theory maintains that the earliest form of zhajiangmian was created during the late 16th century in Manchuria by Nurhaci, the Emperor Taizu of Qing. Sources claim that during the Jurchen unification, Nurhaci commanded his troops to "supplant rations with jiang" (以酱代菜) by dissolving solid slabs of fermented soybean (酱坯) in water, creating a protein- and sodium-rich paste, and consuming it as a dip with vegetables.
Another theory suggests that zhajiangmian was discovered in Xi'an, Shaanxi and introduced to Beijing by the Empress Dowager Cixi. In 1900, forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing. The entire imperial court, including Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor, fled Beijing and evacuated to Xi'an. The empress's retinues were wearied by the time they reached Nan Dajie (南大街) in Xi'an, where the imperial Grand Supervisor (大總管), Li Lianying, discovered a noodle restaurant by its appetizing aroma. The empress dowager and emperor dined at the restaurant, each partaking of a bowl of vegetarian zhajiangmian. Cixi was so impressed by the dish that on their return to Beijing, she ordered that the noodle chef join her court.
Analysis of the subjective factors such as Beijing city development in Qing and Ming dynasties, food supply, climate, people's living conditions comes to a conclusion that Bean Paste Noodles and Old Beijing Noodles with Fried Bean Sauce occurred at the same time. The symbolic sign "Old Beijing Noodles with Fried Bean Sauce" is hidden but rich in profound cultural connotation.
In Beijing cuisine, yellow soybean paste and tianmianjiang are combined to make the sauce. During the process of frying the sauce, a large amount of white scallion is added, and diced pork is used instead of ground meat. Typically the dish is served with a variety of crunchy vegetables, such as cucumber, radish, roseheart radish, bean sprouts, celery, and soybeans. Thick handmade noodles are preferred. In China, Beijing-style zhajiangmian is the most well-known version, even over the original Shandong zhajiangmian.
In Sichuan cuisine, zajiangmian (杂酱面) is considered its own version of zhajiangmian. Despite the similarity in name and contents, there is actually no clear evidence that zajiangmian originates from zhajiangmian. Ground meat is used instead of diced meat. doubanjiang is also added to the sauce. This results in the zajiang meat sauce being more watery than zhajiang sauce, and the dish is less salty. Boiled, leafy vegetables are served with the noodles. Zajiangmian is typically served in soup, but there is also a version that is mixed directly with the sauce. Chili oil and chopped green onion are usually added as toppings.
In Liaoning and Jilin, the zhajiang sauce is traditionally fried with Dajiang sauce. Ground meat is commonly used. Northeast zhajiang sauce also has two special variations: 'Egg Zhajiang' and 'Egg and Green Chili Zhajiang' which contain no meat.
A vegetarian version of zhajiang sauce may be made by substituting ground beef or pork with finely diced extra firm smoked tofu (熏豆腐乾), edamame (毛豆), eggplant, or extra firm tofu (素雞). The vegetarian versions generally call for soybean paste of any sort instead of soy sauce, since the tofu chunks are larger and need more structure.
A halal version is often made with ground beef or lamb.
In Japan, zhajiangmian evolved into jajamen (じゃじゃ麺) when it was brought from Northeast China. It is a popular dish in the northern Japanese city of Morioka, Iwate and is known as one of the three great noodle dishes of Morioka (盛岡三大麺).
Zhajiang sauce is normally made by simmering stir-fried diced meat or ground pork or beef with salty fermented soybean paste. Zhajiang also means "fried sauce" in Chinese. Even though the sauce itself is made by stir-frying, this homonym does not carry over into the Classical Chinese term.
The topping of the noodles usually are sliced fresh or/and pickled vegetables, including cucumber, radish, and pickled edamame, depending on the region. Chopped omelette or in lieu of extra firm tofu can also be alongside. Low-fat dieters often use minced skinless chicken for the meat portion.
- Sullivan, Lawrence R.; Liu-Sullivan, Nancy (2021). Historical Dictionary of Chinese Culture. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 51. ISBN 9781538146040.
Other notable dishes and snacks identified with Beijing include the following: dumplings (jiaozi); noodles with soybean paste (zhajiangmian); [...].
- Song, Weijie (2018). Mapping Modern Beijing: Space, Emotion, Literary Topography. Oxford University Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-19-020067-1. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
[...] Beijing-style buns and noodles, such as steamed buns stuffed with sweetened bean paste (豆包), noodles served with fried bean sauce (炸醬麵), [...].
- Dunlop, Fuchsia (2019). Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-5266-1784-2.
'Fried sauce noodles', or zha jiang mian, is a Beijing specialty that is now popular all over the country.
- Le, Mike; Le, Stephanie (2022). That Noodle Life: Soulful, Savory, Spicy, Slurpy. Workman Publishing Company. p. 191. ISBN 9781523508556.
Beijing's signature noodle is zha jiang mian, or fried sauce noodles.
- Phillips, Carolyn (2016). All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China [A Cookbook]. Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed. p. 42. ISBN 9781607749820. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
Zhajiangmian means "deep-fried sauce noodles" [...] most folks think of this dish as being from Beijing
- Ku, Josh (2023). Win Son Presents a Taiwanese American Cookbook. ABRAMS. p. 85. ISBN 9781683359906. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
- He, Weijie; Chen, Xin (2013-07-09). "中国"十大面条"公布：云吞面落榜 热干面雄起" [China's 'Ten Great Noodles' Announced: Wonton Noodles misses the cut, Hot Dry Noodles triumphs]. Yangcheng Evening News (羊城晚报) (in Chinese). Retrieved 2023-04-06.
- Gaw, Frankie (2022). First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home [A Cookbook]. Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed. p. 95. ISBN 9781607749820. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
Zhajiangmian [...] always reminds me of early childhood. Originating in northern China, it's a classic recipe with many variations across regions, its flavors evolving as it made its way to places such as Korea (where it became jajangmyeon) and Japan (where it became jajamen).
- Mark Antonation (April 12, 2016). "Chinese, Korean and Japanese Versions of One Noodle Bowl and Where to Find Them". Westword.
- Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2004d). "Chapter 36: History of Tofu". History of Soybeans and Soyfoods: 1100 B.C. to the 1980s, Volume IV, The History of Traditional Non-Fermented Soyfoods. Soyinfo Center. Archived from the original on 2011-06-23. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
- "炸醬麵" [Zhajiangmian]. 食品與生活 (in Chinese). No. 7. Shanghai, China: 食品與生活雜誌社. 2011-07-01.
- "北京炸酱面，到底有多讲究" [Intricacies of Beijing zhajiangmian] (in Chinese). Sohu. 2021-08-11. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
清朝奠基者努尔哈赤早年征战时，由于总是行军打仗，士兵盐分补充不足。为避免战斗力降低，努尔哈赤提出"以酱代菜"，每逢驻扎就在当地征购豆酱，然后晒成酱坯让士兵带在身上。野外用餐时，把酱坯用水泡开，采来野菜蘸着吃。[...]光绪年间，八国联军侵入北京，慈禧太后仓皇逃至西安，走到城内南大街时，舟车劳顿令一行人疲惫不堪。此时，一阵香味扑鼻而来，总管李莲英抬头一看，是家炸酱面馆。众人进了面馆，每人来了一碗素酱面。没想到，慈禧太后意犹未尽："味道真好，再来一碗！"后来，慈禧太后嘱咐李莲英把做炸酱面的人带回紫禁城，从此炸酱面就在北京落户了。[Nurhaci, founding father of the Qing dynasty, led constant and aggressive conquests that left his troops malnourished. He then proposed a strategy to improve combat effectiveness: "supplant rations with jiang (fermented soybean paste)". During encampment, Nurhaci ordered soldiers to requisition jiang and sun-dry portions into solid slabs. Soldiers packed dried jiang into the field, where they would prepare it by immersing in water, then consume it as a dip with foraged vegetables. [...] In the Guangxu era of the Qing dynasty, the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing. The Empress Dowager Cixi fled Beijing and evacuated to Xi'an. By the time they reached Nan Dajie in Xi'an, [the empress's retinues] were wearied. A delightful aroma wafted through the air, and imperial Grand Supervisor Li Lianying glanced aloft to find a zhajiangmian restaurant. They entered to dine and each ordered a bowl of vegetarian zhajiangmian. The empress dowager said, "What exquisite flavour. Another!" Afterward, the empress dowager ordered Li Lianying to escort the zhajiangmian chef to the Forbidden City. And so zhajiangmian was brought to Beijing.]
- "The Historical Study on Old Beijing Noodles with Fried Bean Sauce--《Culinary Science Journal of Yangzhou University》2009年04期". en.cnki.com.cn. Retrieved 2020-06-29.
- "じゃじゃ麺の歴史". odette.or.jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 22 August 2020.