Bruce's Blog

a handful of dimes and a jukebox

Jja Jang Myun1I happened across a youTube video of someone named Maangchi making a Korean dish called Jja Jang Myun (pick your own favorite spelling) which is basically a sauce of pork & veggies with a fermented black bean over noodles. There is also Jja Jang Bap, which is over rice instead of noodles.

It looked like something fun to make, but I decided it might be interesting to try it first so that I’d know what I was shooting for.  I asked LA’s own beloved Pulitzer prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold where to go for Jja Jang Myun and he said that the Mandarin House in K-Town has always been the standard. My Thursday Lunch must investigate!

The Mandarin House is actually a Chinese restaurant. Jja Jang Myun originated as a Chinese dish, but the Korean variant is quite different, I’m told. The Chinese version is supposed to be quite bitter. The Mandarin House has gotten a bad rep on Yelp because it had a “C” health rating a few years ago. I’m here to report that it’s an “A” now.
Jja Jang Myun2The staff were very sweet and welcoming. The waitress seemed surprised and rather pleased when I didn’t bother opening the menu and just asked for Jja Jang Myun. I’m pleased that she actually understood me. God knows what might’ve emerged from the kitchen with my poor Korean pronunciation. But ordering this dish was not an uncommon here; half the patrons were eating it. She immediately brought out a little dish of kimchi and some hot tea — jasmine, I think. The kimchi was nice, but quite ordinary. But I wasn’t there searching for banchan, I was there for the Myun. Jja Jang Myun is sometimes called black noodles. When it first comes out, the bowl is covered with the lovely black sauce, and the noodles are still pristine white underneath. You stir up the noodles until they’ve become black with the sauce and the pork and stuff is nicely mixed into the noodles. Then, dive in!

It wasn’t as strong of a taste as I was expecting.  I had imagined more of a Chinese black bean sauce taste, I think, thick and salty.  But it’s not really like that at all.  It tastes like a nice home-cooked sort of thing.

And how much did I have to pay for this treat?   At the Mandarin House, a huge bowl (I could only finish half) of Jja Jang Myun goes for $4.99!   My Thursday Lunch heartily approves!!

Mandarin House
3074 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 386-8976

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