Dear Mr. Gold:
For the first time in my life, I ate the Chinese version of zhajiang mian. I had only eaten the Korean version of that oniony, black bean–y concoction before. But what my aunt made me the other night was amazing (her family is originally from Liaoning, in the north). Since I can’t ask her to make it for me on demand, I would love to find a place that serves up a good bowl.—Teresa, Los Angeles
I quite like the Korean version of zhajiang mian — there’s something about the thick, tarry, onion-rich meat sauce that goes so well with bouncy hand-pulled noodles. Jin, in Koreatown, is probably the place to go for this now. The dish is decent at Dumpling House in Temple City, which may be a Shandong-style restaurant, but its noodles are in the intense Korean style. And I have fond memories of the great zhajiang mian at the long-gone Chu’s Mandarin, which was one of the early stars of the massive Chinese-restaurant mall San Gabriel Square. But I suspect that the zhajiang mian you’re looking for is the one at Malan in Hacienda Heights, the local branch of a Chinese chain, where the dish tends to be more delicate than the ones altered to the Korean palate. In Malan’s version, hand-thrown noodles are tossed with a pork sauce made salty and slightly tart with bits of fermented tofu rather than drowned in black-bean pitch — oniony, lightly gingered and satisfying. 2020 S. Hacienda Blvd., Hacienda Heights, (626) 369-5602.
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