Image: By Laura Murray, Food Styling By Pearl Jones
In a lot of noodle shops in China, there’s a choice between soup noodles and sauced noodles. While I usually gravitate toward soup noodles during cold weather, there's something very comforting about sauced noodles, where each strand is coated in a complex savoury sauce that flavours the entire dish. This recipe—with its thick gravy, umami mushrooms, and garlicky chicken—has everything I look for in sauced noodles: spice, sweetness, and savouriness, all elements coaxed out by the layering of flavours.
The sauce itself consists of tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce) and red miso. The combination of these two fermented sauces, one sweeter and one savoury, makes for complex, multilayered flavour—a technique that is the basic principle behind a traditional northern Chinese dish zhajiangmian.
This dish is equally inspired by Thai pad krapow, spicy minced chicken stir-fry tossed with holy basil. I’ve always had it served over rice, and it’s one of my favourite dishes to cook at home because of how quickly it comes together. Here, as in krapow, the aromatics from Thai chile and garlic infuse the meat and add a brightness that punctuates the rich sauce.
A note on substitutions: You can use ground chicken instead of thighs, but chopping the thighs yourself will give you meat that’s more succulent and juicy. You can use regular soy sauce instead of dark. And if you don’t have or can’t find tian mian jiang, substitute hoisin sauce and omit the additional sugar. —Betty Liu
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 4 small) or ground chicken
2 cups shiitake mushrooms (about 5 oz.)
5 garlic cloves
4 red or green Thai chiles
¼ cup tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce) or hoisin sauce (see headnote)
¼ cup red miso
¼ cup black vinegar
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (preferably Pearl River Bridge)
2 Tbsp. sugar
16 oz. fresh or dried thin wheat noodles (such as lo mein, lamian, or ramen)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
Handful of Thai or holy basil
1. If using 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 4 small), cut into ¼" pieces on a cutting board with a chef’s knife. (To make this process easier, freeze chicken on a baking sheet 30 minutes, then cut chicken when it’s half thawed.) If you’re using 1 lb. ground chicken, skip this step.
2. Transfer chicken to medium bowl and wash cutting board and knife.
3. Trim stems from 2 cups shiitake mushrooms (about 5 oz.) and tear into 1" pieces.
4. Coarsely chop 5 garlic cloves and 4 red or green Thai chiles. Add a pinch of kosher salt and crush with the flat side of knife to a coarse paste (or pound in a mortar and pestle).
5. Mix ¼ cup tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce), ¼ cup red miso, ¼ cup black vinegar, 2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (preferably Pearl River Bridge), and 2 Tbsp. sugar in a small bowl to combine; set sauce aside. (If you don’t have or can’t find tian mian jiang, substitute ¼ cup hoisin sauce and omit the additional sugar.)
6. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 16 oz. fresh or dried thin wheat noodles (such as lo mein lamian, or ramen) according to package directions until al dente. Drain, rinse under cool running water, and set aside.
7. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high. Cook garlic mixture (the wok should be hot enough that it sizzles immediately), stirring constantly, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until pieces are just cooked through and no longer translucent, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate along with any juices.
8. Wipe out wok and reduce heat to medium. Heat another 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in wok and cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened, 6–8 minutes.
9. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken mixture and any accumulated juices and reserved sauce and cook, stirring often, until sauce is dark, most of the liquid is evaporated, and everything is coated, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup water to wok and mix gently to incorporate. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick and shiny (it should be about the consistency of gravy), 20–25 minutes.
10. Coarsely tear a handful of Thai or holy basil and add basil and cooked noodles to chicken; toss gently to coat each strand with sauce.
Feature Image: By Laura Murray, Food Styling By Pearl Jones
This originally appeared on Bon Appetit | Betty Liu