A Dish for the Lonely - Jjajangmyeon 짜장면
Updated: May 11, 2021
Have you ever heard of Black Day? In South Korea, Black Day (April 14th) is when members of the lonely hearts club (singles who did not receive gifts on Valentine’s Day and White Day) eat Jjajangmyeon!
Every couple wants to be in a cute love story or experience their own extraordinary “meet-cute”❤️, mimicking the popular K-drams on TV. And the couples of South Korea love their couple days. South Korean couples celebrate at least 11 unofficial holidays a year! They even celebrate a day to drink Soju and take a walk in the woods (I would do this every day, if socially acceptable. I do not need a spouse or a special day to do this). For those that are single, there’s not much to celebrate on the 14th of every month, except for one particular day in March. That’s Black Day!
On Black Day, singles can celebrate being single (though initially meant as a day to mourn their lack of love) by coming together with other singles and eating a carb-heavy black bean noodle dish called Jjajangmyeon (jaa·jaang·mee·uhn). Many still observe this day as a day of sadness and longing for love, but I like to think many celebrate friendship on this day.
Jjajangmyeon isn’t only eaten on Black Day; it’s eaten as a popular takeaway dish, delivered by motorbikes in reusable bowls, served with crisp pickled daikon radish. It is one of my favourite dishes, and I usually crave it when I’ve had a tough day at work, and I need carbs.
So what is it? Jjajangmyeon, created by Chinese immigrants to Korea, is a wheat-based noodle dish with a thick, savoury sauce full of vegetables and meat. There are many variations to ingredients from different vegetables to seafood.
I make mine with whatever I have in the fridge. It is a great fridge dump dinner!
I always have carrots, cabbage, zucchini, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and green onions in my fridge. I regrow the green onions from their stems in water on my window sill, a trick taught by my friend Karthika. I usually make mine with potato or sweet potato, but didn't have any on hand. Sub out the carrot if you're adding potato.
If you’re adding protein, it is usually pork. However, you can add whatever you want. I like to add minced pork and pork belly or loin. I top mine with sliced cucumber and serve it with pickled daikon radish and kimchi.
You will also need a wok to make this dish. I mean, you don’t need it, but I highly recommend it.
Let’s see if we can convince Lien to make Jjajangmyeon for April14th, 2021!
Note: She’s not single and doesn’t need to eat her feelings on this day, but I thought it would be cute if we made it and ate it together for Black Day. It also falls on a Sunday, our cooking days, which will give her enough time to prep!
If you want to learn about other “couple holidays” from South Korea, click here.
1 Carrot or sweet potato (I like it with sweet potato, but I didn’t have any)
½ cup of cabbage chopped into rough ½ inch chunks
4 Mushrooms of your choice
Cucumbers for topping
3 to 4 servings of fresh Jjajangmyeon or spaghetti noodles if you can’t find these noodles
For the sauce
5 Tablespoons Chunjang (춘장), Korean black bean paste
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
1.5 cup chicken stock or water
1 Tablespoon potato starch mixed with 1/4 cup of cold chicken stock or water
100 grams of pork (of your choice) diced into ½ inch chunks
100 grams of minced pork or ground pork
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, grated
+ Oil for cooking (vegetable or whatever you have on hand, just not sesame)
Note: Use more meat if you want to up your protein. My husband prefers the sauce to be meatier. You do you.
In a large pot, boil water, as you would for pasta. In the meantime, prepare your vegetables and meat. Grate the garlic, mix with the the soy sauce and add both to the pork, and let sit for 5 minutes.
In a hot wok add your oil and sauté your meat on medium heat until the pork is no longer pink. Add your onions, and sauté until soft. Add your carrot and sauté for 3 minutes. Lastly, add your zucchini, mushroooms, and cabbage, and sauté until tender.
Once tender, make a well in the middle of your meat and vegetable mixture, add your sesame oil, black bean paste, and sugar, stir the mixture in the well for 3 minutes.
Mix the vegetables into the sauce until everything is coated. Add your stock and bring to a gentle boil—Prep your starch mixture. Slowly add in your starch mixture, and stir until the sauce is thick. Turn down the heat and place a lid on your sauce.
Boil the noodles per the instructions and then drain. Place a serving of noodles into a bowl, top with your sauce and cucumber and serve!
Song Recommendation for dinner:
Bonus: if you love the movie Tune In for Love, listen here. You can watch the movie on Netflix.