Many noodle shops in China offer a choice between soup noodles and sauce noodles. While I’m usually interested in soup noodles in cold weather, there is something very comforting about sauce noodles, with each strand coated in a complex zesty sauce that the entire dish tastes like. This recipe – with its thick sauce, umami mushrooms and garlic chicken – contains everything I look for in sauce noodles: spice, sweetness and taste, all elements that are challenged by the layering of flavors.
The sauce itself is made up of Tian Mian Jiang (sweet bean sauce) and red Miso. The combination of these two fermented sauces, one sweeter and one savory, creates a complex, multi-layered taste – a technique that is the basic principle of a traditional North Chinese dish Zhajiangmian.
This dish is equally inspired by Thai Pad Krapow, a flavorful, chopped chicken pan tossed with holy basil. I’ve always had it served over rice, and it’s one of my favorite dishes I cook at home because it comes together so quickly. Here, as in Krapow, the aromas of Thai chilli and garlic give up the meat and give it a brightness that underlines the rich sauce.
A note on substitutions: You can use ground chicken in place of thighs, but chopping the thighs yourself will result in meat that is juicier and juicier. 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 leave out the extra sugar. – Betty Liu