My favorite Korean food as a kid was Jja Jang Myun. I could eat bowls and bowls of these delicious black bean noodles and when there were no more noodles, I’d mix the leftover sauce into a bowl of freshly steamed white rice and make Jja Jang Bop. Just needed to take out the tupperware holding grandma’s kimchi from the fridge and I’d enjoy a most satisfying meal. 😉
Back in the day, Ellicott City didn’t have a Korean restaurant that specialized in Jja Jang Myun. (Now, there are two or three in the Ellicott City area.) Whenever we wanted some Korean-Chinese cuisine, we had to drive over to Glen Burnie or Rockville. Ah memories! The Jja Jang Myun restaurant in Glen Burnie was my favorite. You see, whenever we passed by the ‘big enchanted castle’ along 95 South on our way to the Rockville restaurant, my brother would make me hide. He said if the keepers of the castle knew little children were nearby they’d come after our car and kidnap us! Like a fool, I believed every word he said and would be so scared whenever we headed towards Montgomery County or DC. When I realized it wasn’t an enchanted castle full of kidnappers, I vowed never to be tricked by my brother again…that was until… he told me that eagles have a wingspan of 6 ft plus and they would swoop down and take away little kids who were bad and didn’t listen to their older siblings. HAHA 😉 Man, how gullible could I be?! I wonder what sorts of crazy stories my oldest nephew tells his younger siblings to scare them! 🙂 Anyway, back to Jja Jang Myun.
Jja Jang Myun is the Korean version of a Chinese dish called Zha Jiang Mian, which I believe means fried sauce (zha jiang) noodles (mian). To make the sauce, you fry fermented black bean paste in oil, then cook with some diced onions, pork and other vegetables such as zucchini and potato. Jja Jang Myun, today, is recognized as one of the most popular Korean dishes. You’ll find Jja Jang Myun in restaurants that specialize in Korean-Chinese cuisine. Noodles, Noodle soups, battered and fried meat dishes smothered in sauce and stir fried vegetable/meat dishes are what you will find there. No Korean BBQ or brothy rice soups I’m afraid. You’d never want to order Jja Jang Myun off a regular Korean restaurant menu. It’ll most likely be average or generic. Always go to a Korean restaurant that specializes in Korean-Chinese cuisine for this dish.
A few months ago when I wrote about Hwae Dup Bop, I was delighted to hear how many non-Koreans found the post helpful and ventured out to try the unfamiliar dish. Like Hwae Dup Bop, I feel that Jja Jang Myun hasn’t gotten the exposure it deserves. It’s a classic Korean dish that I feel everyone would enjoy, if they only knew where and how to order it. So last week, I called up my best couple friends, you know, the ones we order a million dishes with 😉 and we set out for dinner at Tian in Ellicott City. Once again, we over-ordered to our hearts’ content. Here is what we had.
The best Jja Jang Myun restaurants make hand pulled noodles called Su Ta Myun. The chef prepares the noodles to order and you can hear the noodles being thrown and pulled in the kitchen. Thud! Thud! Thud! Su Ta Myun, when made right, is chewy with a bite. I LOVE noodles that are chewy with a bite, if you haven’t picked up on that already. Tian in Ellicott City is known for their Su Ta Myun. Yum! There are also many variations of Jja Jang sauce. Gan Jja Jang (top right) is Jja Jang sauce with added quick sauteed onions. Sam Son Gan Jja Jang (bottom right) is Jja Jang sauce with added seafood like shrimp and calamari and quick sauteed onions. Sachon Jja Jang (bottom left), which is a specialty of Tian, is Gan Jja Jang sauce with chili and is quite spicy. So if you’re looking for something with a kick, I recommend the Sachon Jja Jang Myun. I learned about this spicy Jja Jang dish from my best friend who was addicted to it over the summer.
This is a bowl of Samson Gan Jja Jang Myun. If I’m feeling like black bean noodles, I order the Samson Gan Jja Jang version. The added seafood and quick sauteed onions make the sauce especially tasty.
Jjam Pong. Spicy seafood noodle soup. This was my dad’s favorite. Whenever we’d go out for Korean-Chinese cuisine, we’d order 1 Jjam Pong, 3 Gan Jja Jang and 1 Tang Soo Yook (battered and fried sweet and sour pork). 🙂 Jjam Pong is just as popular as Jja Jang Myun. They kind of go hand in hand. If you can’t decide between the two, go for a half and half bowl. Most, if not all Korean-Chinese restaurants, offer half and half options these days. So you can enjoy a half portion of Jja Jang Myun and a half portion of Jjam Pong and get the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for noodle soup but don’t care for spicy, try Ul Myun or Udong. It’s a white seafood broth, just as flavorful but without the chili and heat. They also offer variations of Jjam Pong on their menu like Samson Jjam Pong (combination of seafood), Shrimp Jjam Pong, Mussel Jjam Pong and Oyster Jjam Pong.
Bu Chu or Chive Jap Chae is a dish made of stir fried pork, garlic, dried chilis, and lots and lots of chives. This dish is served with steamed buns and is usually ordered to be shared. The steamed buns at Tian are so soft! Pork buns are all the rage in restaurants these days, but you have to go to a proper Asian restaurant to get steamed buns with the perfect texture. Lovely little soft puffs of dough.
Sae Woo or Shrimp Kam Poong Gi. I usually order the original Kam Poong Gi that is made with chicken drummies. The bone is cleaned on one end and you get what looks like a sticky saucy battered and fried chicken lollipop. This is another dish that is meant to be shared. If you order it as your main dish, don’t forget to ask for rice as it does not normally come with rice. This was Kevin’s favorite dish of the night.
Yoo San Seul. Sliced pork with shrimp, sea cucumber, vegetables, mushrooms with special sauce. This is another dish that can be shared. It’s a stir fry dish that is extremely tasty. Love the thick slices of garlic and the spicy chili dipping sauce. We always ask for extra sauce when we order this dish.
Korean Fried Chicken. This is not a typical Korean-Chinese dish, but Tian is known for making good Korean-style wings. It’s similar to the wings served at Bon Chon. We were told they take some time to prepare, so we ordered 10 spicy wings as soon as we were seated. I’m glad they let us know about the wait. It was the first item we ordered and the last item to come out.
Mandoo. Fried Dumplings. I like that Tian makes their own dumpling wraps. They are bit thicker than what you might expect. I personally prefer thinner dumpling wraps, but these were still enjoyable.
Jjam Ppong and Tang Soo Yook. This is from a previous visit to Tian. They have a full page on their menu of different half and half combinations you can order. Half and half dishes are served in this split bowl. Portions are quite filling. If you want to try a few different items, half and half is the way to go.
Raw Onion. Dan Moo Ji (pickled daikon). Black Bean Paste. This is a typical Korean-Chinese ban chan. Dress the raw onions and sliced pickled daikon with vinegar, dip them into the black bean paste and have them with your main dish. Your breath will be kickin’ when you’re finished your meal HAHA. But they go so well with the Jja jang myun noodles. I like to eat the dan moo ji on it’s own while I wait for the noodles to come out.
These condiments can be found on each table. White pepper, white vinegar, soy sauce and chili flakes/powder. In many Korean-Chinese restaurants, dishes are not served with dipping sauce. You kind of make your own using these condiments. For dishes like dumplings, Tang Soo Yook (battered and fried sweet and sour pork/chicken/beef), and Kam Poongi (battered and fried sticky asian chicken wings/shrimp), you can make a dipping sauce by mixing equal parts soy sauce and vinegar with a few shakes of chili powder.
I hope this little introduction to Jja Jang Myun and Korean-Chinese cuisine encourages you to try it out. The most popular dishes are Jja Jang Myun, Jjam Pong, Tang Soo Yook and Kam Poong Gi. The last few times we’ve gone out for Jja Jang Myun, we’ve gone to Tian in Ellicott City. I especially love their half and half menu options and friendly service. You can also find similar menus at Han Joong Gwan in Ellicott City, MD, Chan Mat inside Hanoori Town in Catonsville, MD and Da Rae Won in Beltsville, MD.
8801 Baltimore National Pike #15
Ellicott City, MD 21043
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