Jajangmyeon is a tasty noodle dish that we have been eating for years! It’s made with thick wheat-based noodles, black soybean paste, pork, and vegetables. Delicious, right?
But after talking to a few people recently, we quickly realized how unfamiliar Western countries and communities are with this delicious dish. So, let’s explore this incredibly savory and flavor-packed recipe!
So, what do black bean noodles, or jajangmyeon, taste like? In short, it’s an extremely rich, savory, and umami dish with noticeable sour, bitter, and sweet flavors. Naturally, any accompaniment will add its own flavor and texture as well.
Today, we will be looking at every element of flavor for this dish. We’ve broken it down into the sauce, noodles, accompanying ingredients, and garnishes. And, we will look at how the flavors can change and how you can help preserve them.
What Is Jajangmyeon (Black Bean Noodles)?
There are hundreds of different dishes and concepts that come up when you Google “black bean noodles.”
There are two main dishes that are considered to be authentic black bean noodle dishes — one is Korean (Jajangmyeon), while the other is Chinese (Zhajiangmian).
The more popular of the two, and the one we’ll be looking at today, is the Korean one. This is a dish that consists of noodles topped with a chunjang sauce (thick black sauce), diced pork, and some vegetables.
Now, misleadingly, the noodles themselves aren’t actually black or made of black beans. Usually normal udon or cumian noodles are used to make this dish! These are both very thick round wheat-based noodles.
The sauce is what gives the dish its name. The sauce, chunjang, is made from a combination of soybeans, fermented flour, and sometimes caramel. There are other ingredients that can be added to this sauce, but it’s generally quite plain.
Then, you naturally have the meaty flavors of the pork, but other proteins can be used as well. A variety of seafood is also quite popular for this dish. And finally, vegetables are a common addition, but the exact type uses varies a lot.
Other aromatic ingredients that many restaurants and street vendors use include garlic, ginger, chili, and scallions. They also often use onions, zucchini, and cabbage as the vegetable.
This dish can be topped with fresh cucumber ribbons, fried or boiled eggs, bamboo shoots, or blanched shrimp.
As accompaniments, danmuji is really the only option — this is a yellow pickled radish dish. You can also add sliced raw onions for a spicy addition, but it’s not very common.
What Do Black Bean Noodles (Jajangmyeon) Taste Like?
So, now that you actually have a breakdown of the ingredients used to make this black bean noodle dish, you can see that the flavor profile can be quite complex.
But, what does Jajangmyeon taste like?
As we have said, this dish consists of four parts: thick wheat noodles, black bean paste, meat, and vegetables. This obviously doesn’t include the garnish, which is optional.
Let’s cover how these components might affect the flavor!
Flavor Of The Noodles
Depending on the type of noodle you use, the flavors may vary slightly. Udon and cumian are the types of noodles you can use for this dish (traditionally).
Udon noodles have a sweet and savory flavor. These are thick round noodles that have an off-white color. Their texture is tender and their flavor pretty neutral.
For cumian, only Shanghai-style cumian noodles are used. They are also thick and very filling. But, they have a more yellowish color to them than udon. These noodles also have a neutral flavor.
Part of the reason these are used is that they hold sauce very well. And, they won’t overwhelm the flavor of the sauce and accompanying ingredients.
Flavor Of The Accompaniments
Naturally, the additional ingredients (pork, vegetables, aromatics, and garnishes) will add flavor — sometimes a lot of it!
It’s hard to pinpoint a flavor because the recipes vary so much. But, if you know what is in your specific recipe, you can expect those flavors.
However, the sauce is very strong in flavor, so it will definitely overpower anything like zucchini and onions.
Garlic and ginger will hold their own with the sauce and help develop a more savory umami flavor profile.
And of course, any type of meat will add more umami meaty flavors to your dish.
Flavor Of The Black Bean Sauce
The black bean sauce for jajangmyeon isn’t made from just black beans — it’s also made from soybeans and fermented flour.
The recipe for this paste-like sauce varies. Depending on where you are located, many people add soy sauce to it as well.
Many of these sauces use black fermented soybeans, also called douchi or tochi. Regular soybeans won’t give a black color and black soybeans won’t give a bitter flavor.
This sauce is what gives the dish its flavor.
Jajangmyeon sauce is very strong in flavor — it is pungent, bitter, very salty, and has earthy undertones. You can also sometimes pick up some spicy flavors with hints of sweetness.
However, this flavor does change as soon as you cook the paste (or toast it).
Once toasted, the bitter and sour flavors are removed almost completely. Then, the sauce is predominantly salty, earthy, and slightly sweet.
If you buy this sauce from the store, it often states whether or not it has already been cooked or not.
Texture Of Black Bean Noodles (Jajangmyeon)
This definitely isn’t a dish that lacks texture!
The noodles themselves (no matter which you choose) are extremely filling, thick, and slightly chewy. Once they absorb some of the black bean sauce, they become juicy as well.
Then, the pork naturally adds a meaty chewiness to the noodles. Depending on how much you cooked it and how big the pieces are, you can have a very chewy or pleasantly chewy dish.
The vegetables should also not be overlooked for texture. We like to flash-fry the vegetables so they can keep a slight crunch. Otherwise, if you allow them to simmer in the sauce, they will just become soft.
And finally, this sauce doesn’t have a ton of texture. It is generally thick, but not extremely textured. But, it’s also not runny and smooth like water. So, expect what you would from any bean paste.
How To Preserve The Flavor Of Black Bean Noodles
Now, the best way to store black bean noodles (Jajangmyeon) depends on the form the dish is in. Has the sauce been mixed with the other ingredients and noodles, or is it still separate?
If your sauce is still separate from the other ingredients, it will have a much longer shelf life. This is because the accompanying, more perishable ingredients cannot ruin it as they expire.
This sauce can be stored for up to 2 years if it remains unopened. However, once opened, it can only be kept inside the fridge for 3-6 months (still pretty long for a condiment).
The best way to store the sauce is in its original container — this is most likely a glass jar of some sort. If it is in plastic, rather transfer it to a sterile jar after you opened it. The glass jar is far less likely to grow bacteria.
You can also freeze this paste in zip-lock bags for several months and even years. But, portion the paste to avoid defrosting and refreezing the same batch over and over again.
If you cooked the black bean sauce at home, the shelf life is only 4-5 days inside the fridge. An uncooked sauce hasn’t been exposed to any heat and has minimal bacteria, so always lasts longer. Even the pre-cooked ones.
So, it’s important to only cook the amount of black bean sauce you need for your recipe. Don’t heat and cool the sauce repeatedly. It will make the sauce spoil after the third time you heat it.
Black Bean Noodle Dish
If the sauce has already been mixed with the noodles, meat, and vegetables, the shelf life will be considerably shorter. The other ingredients will spoil before the sauce does.
Usually, you are looking at about 2-3 days you can keep the dish inside an airtight container. And naturally, the leftovers should be stored inside the fridge.
Is black bean noodles (Jajangmyeon) healthy?
This isn’t really a healthy dish. It is packed with calorie-dense foods, not to mention carbs from wheat-based noodles.
Nutritionally, you will likely only benefit from the vegetables, meat, some garnishes, and minimally from the soybeans.
Can you get noodles made from black beans?
You can find black bean noodles, which are just plain noodles made from black beans; however, these can be somewhat difficult to find in stores. But, they’re a healthy gluten-free alternative to wheat-based noodles.
Keep in mind, that this type of black bean noodles aren’t used in Jajangmyeon (the Korean black bean noodles dish) or Zhajiangmian (the Chinese black bean noodle dish).
What cuisine is Jajangmyeon from?
It definitely leans more towards Korean cuisine. However, many people say that it comes from Chinese-Korean fusion cuisine.
Chinese immigrants in Korea started incorporating ingredients they could find to make traditional Chinese dishes. Jajangmyeon was amongst them!