Monday, April 12, 2010

The Chinese Bolognese

Recently while perusing a restaurant menu, I noticed they had ja-ja mein, which I haven’t thought about since my childhood.

Ja-ja mein, also known as ja-jiang mein, is a Northern Chinese dish known for its ground meat sauce over noodles, blended with thinly sliced fresh cucumbers. It’s served either room temperature or cold. The ground meat is eaten by so many Chinese kids while growing up it’s considered the Chinese version of spaghetti.

Growing up in Honolulu, my mom kept our family busy with her small business making a Chinese cracker treat. We all helped her on the weekends, and often during a long day of cooking we’d order takeout for dinner. One of the popular places we went to was a tiny Northern Chinese restaurant that only made two dishes (or at least only two dishes were popular): beef soup noodles and ja-ja mein.

I remember getting a big plate of this noodle dish and eagerly mixing the cooling cucumber slices with the spicy meat sauce. The combination was amazing for my young palate. Of course, after awhile I ate so much of it that I got sick of it and when I grew up and left Hawaii, I never thought about ordering it again.

But seeing it on the menu recently got me craving for it. So I made a quick-and-easy version using canned sweet bean sauce I got in Chinatown. My meat sauce (using ground pork) wasn’t as amazing as that restaurant, probably because they cooked it for hours, but it did hit the spot. During the summer months, this is a great dish to make because of the fact it’s often served cold. What was your family’s favorite meat sauce with noodle dish?


A said...

are u going to Fri SF underground FM? i might check it out. didn't get anything from the after i rsvp - so don't know where it'll be.

Single Guy Ben said...

A: I'm not planning to go to the Underground Market this Friday, but you should check it out and fill me in! :) I think when you RSVP, that just puts you on the list so that you can enter (even though they don't really check). Then you're supposed to check their site or be on the twitter feed to get updates on the next market. But here's the info:

Underground Market
934 Brannan St. (between 8th/9th)
San Francisco
April 16, 5-11 p.m.

Anonymous said...

cool. i did get an email today w/ the info.
Are u going to the Cherry Blossom Parade Sun? I'll be there taking pics.


Single Guy Ben said...

A, I actually am going to the Cherry Blossom festival on Saturday! You have to send me a link to your pics!