Vegan zhajiangmian.

ZhajiangmianI frequent a lot of Shanghainese restaurants in the city and usually order the old staples: XLB, beef pancake roll, and pan-fried noodles. But there’s this dish that I usually see on the other peoples’ tables and for the longest time I never knew what it was. It looked like a bowl of chewy, wheat noodles, topped with a minced meat sauce of sorts topped with julienned cucumber and carrots. I later found out that was zhajiangmian.

Zhajiangmian is a comforting noodle dish that consists of hand-pulled wheat noodles, ground pork in a brown fermented soy bean sauce and usually topped with fine slivers of cucumber. It’s a dish that totally hits the spot and tacks on just the right amount of saltiness from the soybean sauce, coolness from the cucumber, and chewiness from the noodles. You can find this dish at most Shanghainese restaurants. My favourite version of it can be found at Top Shanghai in Richmond. To fucking die for.

But since I am practically off meat (just when I cook at home, people…I am nowhere near becoming a full-time vegetarian anytime soon), I decided to make a vegan version of this meat-laden dish. The solution? Tofurky’s Meatless Ground Beef.

Even though I am not a huge fan of using soy products (with the exception of tofu), soy really hits a home run when it comes to making fake meat. I’m serious. I am probably the biggest fake meat hater on this planet but soy products seem to really make it work. For me, it’s all about the texture. Tofurky’s been such a big name and a leader in the fake meat business that I had to give it a go. One box can look pretty deceiving when it’s in the package but once you add it to the pan, I would say that it’s almost equivalent to 2lbs of meat. It’s just a lot! So if I were you, don’t use more than one box unless you plan on making a huge portion of food.

Anyways, back to the dish! Zhajiangmian is stupidly simple to make. It basically goes like this: 1) cook the noodles, 2) make the sauce, and 3) add fresh vegetables on top. Voila! Good luck!
Zhajiangmian Zhajiangmian Zhajiangmian Zhajiangmian Zhajiangmian Zhajiangmian ZhajiangmianZhajiangmian (adapted from Serious Eats)

What you’ll need:
– 1 pkg fresh wheat noodles (Shanghai; I use the ones from T&T)
– 1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
– 1 small onion, diced
– 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 pkg Tofurky Ground Beef (or 2lbs ground pork)
– 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
– 4 tbsp oyster sauce
– 3 tbsp doenjang (fermented soy bean paste)
– 3 tbsp chili-garlic sauce
– 2 tbsp soy sauce
– 2 tbsp Sriracha
– 1/2 – 1 cup water
– 1/2 cup frozen edamame beans
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 1/2 English cucumber, julienned in 2-3″ pieces
– 2 small carrots, peeled and julienned in 2-3″ pieces

What you’ll need to do:
1. Cook your noodles in a pot of boiling and salted water according to packaged directions.
2. Over medium-high heat, melt ghee in a wok until it has become very hot.
3. Add the onions and saute for 1 minute. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds or until it begins to slightly darken in colour.
4. Add the soy grounds (or ground pork if you’re using meat) and stir until the onions and garlic are incorporated.
5. Next, add all the sauces (soy sauce, hoisin, oyster, doenjang, sriracha, water) and edamame beans. Add some freshly black pepper to taste. Feel free to add more water if you’d like more of a “saucy” sauce.
6. Serve noodles and sauce into individual bowls and top with freshly julienned cucumer and carrot. Makes 4-6 servings.

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