Pasta, lo mian, Beijing zha ziang mian 1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The first time I had spaghetti Bolognese in Rome, prepared the authentic way with very little tomato and mainly meat, I thought “Just like zha ziang mian!”  The two dishes are similar, and legend has it that after spending time in China, Marco Polo took this dish back to Italy.  Zha ziang mian, a staple dish in most every home in northern China, can be hard to get right.  Each of the ingredients needs to be in perfect proportion to the other.

You need to have pork that is coarsely ground for this dish, like what you might buy for chili, or the pork can become mushy and hard to break apart.  Rinse the noodles after cooking with cold water and drain them well to prevent them from sticking together.”  Celia Chang, The Seventh Daughter

1 seedless cucumber, peeled and julienned

kosher salt to taste

4 tablespoons canola oil

2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 pound ground pork

8 cloves garlic, minced

one 2-inch piece of ginger, minced

12 scallions, minced

3 tablespoons dark soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice cooking wine

4 cups bean sprouts

1 pound fresh, uncooked, 1/8 inch wide Chinese egg noodles, blanched (Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, salt it and drop in the noodles, a few at a time, separating them as they fall into the water.  Cover and bring the water back to a boil as quickly as possible.  Uncover and boil the noodles for 5 minutes, then drain immediately and run under cold tap water to stop the cooking.  Drain again and set aside.)

2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

  1. Toss cucumbers and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Let sit 5 minutes.  Heat a 14 inch wok (or stainless steel skillet) over high heat until it begins to smoke.  Add 1 tablespoon oil around the edge of the wok and swirl to coat bottom and sides.  Add the carrots and onions and cook until softened, about 1 minute.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  1. Return wok to high heat and add remaining oil. Add pork, garlic, ginger and half the scallions.  Cook, breaking pork into small pieces, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
  1. Add soy sauce, wine, sugar, bean sprouts and carrots and onions. Cook, stirring, until hot, about 30 seconds.
  1. Add cucumbers, remaining scallions, noodles and sesame oil. Cook, tossing, until hot, about 1 minute.  Season with salt.


adapted from Saveur Magazine, May 2010

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