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Black Bean Bonanza

Look at that picture! Thick chewy yellow noodles slathered in a rich dark brown sauce made with fermented black bean paste, pork belly, zucchini, radish and potatoes. It's a savory, hearty noodle dish that's become a comfort food staple in our house. Originally a Chinese dish made with black bean paste, the Korean version evolved into a quick and easy plate often served in celebration when your child brings home good grades. Could an instant version of this slurping sensation taste as good as your childhood favorite... the short answer is yes! But which is best?

I picked up 3 instant versions... Samyang, Nongshim and Paldo.

The Samyang black bean noodles come with 2 seasoning packets; one containing dried vegetables and the other was the liquid sauce. As with other Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen in their line, these noodles were spicy! Not too hot to eat, as the sauce was slightly sweet, but I feel the heat takes away some of the comfort I wanted. Also, part of the fun of eating jjajangmyeon is crunching into the little cubes of pork belly and veggies. Here the dried ingredients didn't add much to the flavor or texture... and could be omitted altogether. They were good and definitely one of my favorite instants from Samyang, but it didn't satisfy my craving.

The next bowl I made were the Nongshim Chapagetti noodles. To cook... you simply add all of the packaged ingredients together (water, soup base powder, dried vegetables, vegetable oil) with the noodles in a saucepan and boil for a few minutes. After cooking, the dried vegetables are there but not really contributing to the texture of the dish. However, I really liked the flavor... it was deeper and a little more complex than the Samyang version (once again, probably due to the spiciness overtaking the dish).

Lastly, it was time for the Paldo variety. Winner winner, black beans for dinner! These noodles were the easiest to make. Open the provided bowl and remove the one sauce packet. Add boiling water, pour out after a few minutes and pour the sauce over. I enjoyed this bowl the best. The sauce was very rich and fermented (sounds scary, but it's good, trust me) with little bits of chewy vegetables scattered throughout. When you need a quick bowl of Korean black bean noodles with a dense sauce that sticks to the noodles and your ribs, this one hits the spot!

Enjoy this culinary fusion of two cultures!

-David Lynn

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