Against the whiteness of the noodles, this black sauce – which comes courtesy of fermented black bean paste (or chunjang) – can look somewhat daunting, but its flavour is deeply nuanced and complex. Fermented black beans are used commonly in Chinese cooking, of course, but usually as single beans with individual bursts of flavour; here, we’re using a paste, which offers deeper, darker rewards. You won’t regret seeking it out.
½ cup vegetable oil, plus 2 tbsp
1 cup Korean black bean paste (chunjang)
*250g pork belly, skin removed, cut into 1cm dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2cm-piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium white onion, cut into 1cm dice
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1cm dice
1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes)*
½ cup sugar
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp cornflour
600g fresh udon noodles
2 medium Lebanese cucumbers, cut into 8cm juliennes, to serve
freshly ground black pepper
* found in Korean grocers
1. Place a small saute pan over low heat and add the ½ cup oil. When it's warm, add the black bean paste and cook for 25 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent it burning on the bottom of the pan (the oil and paste will emulsify). Remove from the heat and place in a bowl.
2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the diced pork belly. Season with a little salt and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes; you want it crispy and golden-brown. Then add the garlic, ginger and onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to incorporate. Add the zucchini and the black bean paste, gochugaru, sugar and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Pour in the stock, bring to a simmer and cook for a further 10 minutes. In a small bowl, make a slurry by whisking the cornflour and 3 tablespoons cold water together until dissolved. Pour the slurry carefully into the simmering sauce, stirring continually. Cook for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and becomes glossy.
4. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of iced water. Drop the noodles into a large pot of salted boiling water and cook to the manufacturer's instructions before draining them and placing them in the iced water. This will give them a bouncy, chewy texture. Now place them back in boiling water for 20 seconds to warm up.
5. Place the noodles in 4 bowls and spoon over the sauce. Place a pile of cucumber on top, add a good grind of pepper and serve.
Find more of Neil Perry's recipes in the Good Food Favourite Recipes cookbook.