Spicy pork ramen noodles (ja ja men) recipe
Ben and I are about to go on a month long vacation to Japan and boy are we excited! It’s been a few years since our last visit and we plan on making up for it big time by stuffing our faces silly! We will also be working on a travel section for Pickled Plum, focusing on the south of Japan since most of our time will be spent there . Fukuoka is home to the famous tonkotsu ramen (milky pork broth), karashi mentaiko (spicy cod roe) and motsunabe (beef or pork guts hot pot with miso, garlic or soy base soup). It’s also known for the array of dishes sold in yatai street stalls.
When the clock strikes 6 every evening, street vendors open up for business on major streets like Watanabe-dori in Tenjin and sell steamy bowls of noodles, dumplings, croquettes, yakitori, you name it. Japan at night is anything but boring; food stalls, izakayas, restaurants, cafes and bars line up the streets with their brightly lit signs, inviting you and your friends to stop by for a snack and a beer. The atmosphere is happy, lively and peaceful. To not experience the night life in Japan (and I don’t mean clubbing) is to miss out on an integral part of Japanese culture.
People come alive at night in Japan because it’s the only time they get to unwind after spending a long, stressful day at work. Eating good food, just like anywhere else in Asia is of utmost importance. What this means is that no matter where you go or how much money you have, the odds of finding good food are extremely high. Something as simple as this dish of spicy pork ramen noodles (aka ja ja men) is prepared with care and attention and the same goes for anything else.
I have had good pork ramen noodles in NYC but nothing compares to the ja ja men I slurp in Japan. Ja ja men, taken from the word zhajiangmian which literally means fried sauce noodles, is a dish originally from China consisting of noodles and topped with ground pork cooked in a salty and savory sauce. Japanese people adapted the dish by using ramen noodles instead of thick wheat noodles and adding a little sweetness to the sauce.
This recipe is meant to be simple and easy, an Asian version of fast food if you will but with much more punch and character. Toppings may vary but my favorites are tomatoes, scallions, pickled cucumbers and pickled eggs. A bowl of spicy pork ramen noodles always hits the spot after a night out with friends or when I want something speedy and tasty for lunch.
- 1½ cup ground pork
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ¼ cup sake
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp ssamjang (Korean seasoned soybean paste)
- 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 4oz dry ramen noodles/ egg noodles (you can use more if you want bigger portions)
- 4 scallions, cut into thirds and thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 campari tomatoes sliced in quarters, or 1 medium tomato sliced ⅛
- - In a medium pan over medium / high heat, add vegetable oil, ground pork, ssamjang, gochujang, sugar, soy and sake.
- - Cook for 5 minutes or until pork is cooked through.
- - Keep stirring and breaking the pork into small pieces.
- - Turn the heat off, add sesame oil, stir and set aside.
- - Boil ramen noodles according to package instructions and drain.
- - Divide noodles among two bowls.
- - Top with ground pork, scallions and tomatoes. Serve immediately.