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Quick and Easy Bolognese Chinese Style (Zha Jian Mein)

quick and easy bolognese - www.iamafoodblog.com

Noodles are life. Whenever I’m down, noodles are there for me. It could be an unassuming cup of instant ramen, or maybe a big bowl of spaghetti Bolognese – I’m not picky, just give me noodles and suddenly the future seems just a tiny bit brighter.

quick and easy bolognese - www.iamafoodblog.com quick and easy bolognese - www.iamafoodblog.com

As I was writing this post, Mike and I had the following conversation:

Me: I don’t know what to write about noodles. I love noodles. Noodles are my friends. I want to hug noodles and put them in my mouth.

Mike: I don’t think I want you to have any friends.

😂😱😅

quick and easy bolognese - www.iamafoodblog.com

That is all. Enjoy these meat sauce noodles. They taste basically like a slightly Asian spaghetti Bolognese except that it’s super simple and fast to make, unlike the classic Italian version. The best thing about it is that once you buy the bean pastes that are essential to the recipe, you can keep them in your fridge and make batches and batches of meat sauce. And yes, you will want to make batches and batches. Because meat sauce is your friend.

quick and easy bolognese - www.iamafoodblog.com

Zha Jian Mein Sauce Recipe
makes enough sauce for 6-8 servings of noodles


  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/4 cup sweet bean sauce*
  • 2 tablespoons ground bean paste*
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • noodles of choice
  • freshly ground pepper
  • julienned cucumbers and green onions, to garnish

This is a pretty salty sauce, due to the ground bean paste, so if you taste it on its own, it will be a salt bomb. Feel free to adjust to taste, but know that it’s extra salty because it’s not meant to be eaten on its own – you definitely need to mix it into noodles, preferably ones that haven’t been cooked in salted water. Also, like most Asian noodle recipes, the sauce is secondary to the noodles – I like a 4:1 noodle to sauce ratio, so sauce sparingly. Also, feel free to adjust the bean sauces and soy sauce to taste, this is homestyle cooking after all!

In a pot, heat up the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, but not browned, about 1 minute. Add in the meat and cook, breaking into pieces, until cooked through. Add in both bean sauces, the soy sauce and water. Simmer until slightly thick, about 10 minutes. Season with pepper.

While the meat sauce is simmering, cook and drain your noodles of choice according to the package. Top with a generous helping of meat sauce. Toss throughly before enjoying!

Notes: I love this meat sauce with all sorts of noodles. Traditionally zha jian mein is served with thick wheat noodles (look in the fridge section of your local Asian grocery store), but the sauce tastes fantastic with spaghetti and I’ve been known to mix it up with rice noodles as well. Go wild, it’s a tasty savory meat sauce that pairs well with virtually any noodle.

On bean pastes: you can find these at the Asian grocery store, usually in the same aisle as all of the other sauces. If you can’t find the sweet bean sauce, hoisin sauce will work in a pinch, but I feel like the sweet bean sauce really adds that extra oomph. If you need pictures, here are some google images for ground bean sauce and sweet bean sauce.

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16 Comments

  1. oh man this looks delicious; that little staub pot is so cute! also you and mike are hilarious.

  2. Joe says:

    This does look killer. However have you seen the cover of the July issue of bon appetit? It states “YASS its official BLT season” I only ever seen the word yass on your blog. Unless i am mistaken.

  3. Elisabeth says:

    is this the dish that Korean jjajangmyeon is based on? I have always wondered!

    Love you blog! ive been following your work since the Momofuku days!

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      yes! the korean version is based on this one :) i love the korean on too, tbh! thanks for reading!!!

  4. ooh yes i love zha jiang mian! normally i just use a can of bean sauce with the blue packaging (not sure if it’s the sweet bean sauce or ground bean sauce), but i’ll have to try it with that combo.

  5. Chrissie says:

    Yes!!! I love zhajiangmein!!!! I’ve never thought about it as Chinese spaghetti, but it totally is. I usually just use hoisin sauce but I’m excited to try your combination of bean pastes!

  6. Tori says:

    Mmmmmm! This sounds amazing! I love that it’s so simplistic and yet totally packed with flavors that I’m dying to try together!!!

  7. Ah, I love this! I’m totally going to try this recipe with a ground fatty beef. Also, I absolutely recommend your readers try to find sweet bean sauce before they sub it out with hoisin–don’t just use hoisin because it’s the first thing you see, sweet bean sauce has a better flavor for these kinds of sauces.

    Did I mention I love this?? Ah!

    Cheers,
    Chava

  8. Your food photography is insane!! Also love the layout of your site, very inspirational :)

  9. Grace says:

    Not sure what you mean here: “Top with meat sauce and a generous helping of meat sauce.” Nonetheless, this is going to be dinner. Double meat sauce, it is!

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      hahaha i heard you like meat sauce with your meat sauce!? :P

  10. Sylvia says:

    Agreed. Noodles are life.

  11. Daniel says:

    Great easy recipe! We made a big batch of it for a July 4 bbq potluck, and it was a big hit. We made a test batch first though, and found the sauce to be a little too salty (the ground bean paste is really salty). We adjusted by increasing the amount of sweet bean sauce and decreasing the amount of ground bean sauce (2:1 ratio), and adding some sugar.

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      thanks for the input daniel! i made some headnotes based on your suggestions :)

  12. Rhianna says:

    Could you freeze leftover sauce?

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      yes, absolutely!