Wednesday, February 14, 2007

jajangmyun (자장면)

American Chinese food: Combination Lo Mein, General Tso's Chicken, Hunan Beef, Vegetable Delight, and the likes.

Korean Chinese food: Jajangmyun and Tangsooyook.

Wherever you are in Korea, you can spot a delivery boy speeding by on a moped with a metal contraption tied to the back. Nine times out of ten, you can find a couple of bowls of jajangmyun, a plate of fried dumplings, and an order of tangsooyook in the tin box.

Mom and Dad used to make it for us when we lived with them back in Korea. And last week, Dad graced us with his once-a-year cooking show. I actually started dicing the vegetables, but I guess my skills weren't up to par so Dad took over. Mom was in charge of making the tangsooyook. Within 30 minutes, we were ready to eat.

So what exactly is it, you ask?

Jajangmyun: Call it a Korean-Chinese Spaghetti. The sauce is made with black bean paste; thickened with cornstarch and seasoned with a bit of sugar. Ingredients include sauteed pork, potatoes, onions, carrots, and zucchini; all finely diced. The sauce is ladled over a bed of thick rice noodles. Top it with julienned cucumbers and sprinkle red pepper flakes for an added kick. Mix it all together and devour. Definitely not something you'd want to have on a first date, unless you don't mind the person across from you wearing bean paste all over their mouth and on the front of their shirt. But don't you fret, there are places that offer aprons for ladies and gents to wear so as not to soil their outfit. Or you can just BYOB (Bring Your Own Bib.)

Tangsooyook: Often made with fried pork dipped in batter, but it can be made with beef or chicken; seafood too. The sauce is thick, hot, sweet and spicy with vegetables; usually bell peppers, pineapples and onions. The key to this dish is a thin, crisp layer of batter. I like to dip mine in soy sauce spiked with pepper oil.

There are a couple of restaurants in Annandale that offer jajangmyun, but none can compare to Mom and Dad's. But if you'd like to try it yourself, let me know, and I'll gladly lead the way.

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