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Here’s an authentic recipe for you. It was handed down from my Shandong Grandmother who grew up in Beijing. She was a wonderful cook who taught my Mother everything she knows about Chinese food and I learned from the both of them. Thank you Grandma and Mom ♥!

For these fresh thick noodles, you can find them at Jiashan Market (328 Jianguo lu near Taiyuan lu. 嘉善菜场, 建国西路328号近太原路.) If you’re looking at 2 noodle stalls, it’s the one on the right. Pick the thickest noodles she has on display. They have the toothsomeness (al dente) you’ll want for this dish. Happy Cooking!

1 1/2 pound pork, coarsely grounded
1 cup canola oil
1 cucumber, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
2 scallions, julienned
1 small bunch young pea shoots or bean sprouts
1 package soybean paste (Green Food brand 葱伴侣豆瓣酱 150g)
1 package sweet bean paste (Green Food brand 葱伴侣甜面酱 150g) *Please note, the package says “Hoisin Sauce”, but it’s not. It’s sweet bean paste. Sweet bean paste is a condiment used in northern China such as for Peking duck, pancakes and noodle dishes. Hoisin is Cantonese for seafood. Both are sweet, black in color but has two very different flavors.
1 piece 2″ ginger, minced
1 bunch scallions, minced
2 red chilies, minced
2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons rock sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine
2 cups water
1 bunch hand spun thick noodles (Northern style)

Heat a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add canola oil, ginger, scallions, chilies and saute until fragrant.

Add the ground pork, stir fry until cooked through. Deglaze with rice wine then add the soybean paste and sweet bean paste. Turn heat down to a simmer and stir to combine. Make sure the ingredients are fry-boiling with small bubbles. “Zha jiang” in Chinese, means fry the sauce. The sauce is meant to be fried to bring out the fragrance of the bean pastes, about 15 minutes. It looks like a lot of oil, but you need it to “fry” the sauce. Stir occasionally and cover.

Add the tomatoes, rock sugar and water. Simmer until tomatoes are completely dissipated.

Boil the noodles until al dente, strain and place in a large bowl. In the same boiling water, add a pinch of salt and flash boil the pea shoots or bean sprouts, about 5 seconds. Strain the vegetable.

Top the fresh cooked noodles with the zha jiang sauce, pea shoots, julienned carrots, cucumbers and scallions. Mix and serve immediately.

We made a fun variation to my childhood favorite 凉面, cold noodles with sesame peanut sauce, substituting the noodles with cucumber. The toasted sesame paste is not tahini sauce. You can get sesame paste at any Chinese grocery store. We recommend Taiwanese brands. Happy cooking!

3 cucumbers, shredded lengthwise
1/2 cup toasted sesame paste
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon good toasted black sesame oil
3 teaspoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
Toasted black sesame seeds

Shred cucumbers lengthwise resembling the shape of noodles.  Wrap in paper towel and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a mixing bowl, stir the sesame paste and peanut butter with 1/4 cup warm water until incorporated and smooth. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar and vinegar.

Place sesame peanut sauce on a plate, top with shredded cucumber and sprinkle sesame seeds. Mix and enjoy!

Note: If you like it spicy, drizzle  with hot oil.

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