Since I posted my mom’s recipe for Za Jiang Mein (a Chinese staple I could not live without), I’ve promised to post my mom’s vegetarian version. I know it took forever (four months), but all good things come to those that wait, right? Well, this is a good thing, a very good thing. Plus, you will not get this anywhere else. Though every Chinese family has a recipe for Za Jiang Mein (always made with pork), this Vegetarian Za Jiang Mein is my mom’s own recipe that she developed herself. I guess the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.  She’s often creating new dishes or figuring out a restaurant dish. She doesn’t write her own blog though, so this is the only place you’ll get a Kelly Lee recipe.

Vegetarian Za Jiang Mein

Although this version is meat-free, it’s still packed with protein (from bean curd and eggs), and is amazingly reminiscent of the traditional dish. There’s no attempt to pretend to be meat ( I hate that mock chicken and mock duck stuff) but it’s sweet and salty, chunky and saucy, in that very familiar way. It coats the noodles, leaves you with a lasting feeling of satiety, and you’ll fall in love with it in the exact same way. I’ve seen it happen to both carnivores and vegetarians who try it. It’s like everyone has been shot by cupid’s arrow.

Let’s just toot this horn a little more: it’s as easy to make as the original and stores just as well too. You can make this sauce and leave it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Heat it up and toss on your choice of noodles for a virtually instant meal.

Vegetarian Za Jiang Mein 2

Buying the ingredients is possibly the hardest part, mostly because if you don’t read Chinese (and I don’t), the English translations on labels aren’t great and get more confusing by being inconsistent. This time my mom’s jar of ground bean sauce just says bean sauce, and also this jar of sweet flour sauce is the same as the canned sweet bean sauce seen here. So print out these pictures and go rummage around your Chinese market. It’s worth it!

bean sauce and sweet flour sauce

Vegetarian Za Jiang Mein
~8 to 10 servings

  • 3 large dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
  • 8 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 scallions, chopped (1/4″ pieces)
  • 1 (10 oz) package Five Spice Flavored Tofu (aka dry bean curd), small diced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sweet flour sauce (aka sweet bean sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons bean sauce/ground bean sauce
  • Chinese noodles to serve
  • thinly sliced cucumber (peeled and seeded) to garnish
  • blanched mung bean sprouts to garnish (optional)

Instructions -

1. Soak shitake mushrooms in cold water for 2 hours, or until tender. Squeeze out water (don’t need to squeeze that hard, whatever comes out in one squeeze is fine) and small dice the mushrooms. Discard liquid and set aside diced mushrooms.

soaked shitake mushrooms

2. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in large wok or wide pan (at least 3″ deep) on high heat. Fry eggs, stirring constantly until just cooked through. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

frying eggs

3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into the wok or pot. Fry scallions until lightly golden. Stir in mushrooms giving a few nice tosses. Add bean curd and stir for about a minute.

bean curd and scallion

4. Add 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, sweet flour sauce, and bean sauce. Stir for 2 minutes, making sure sauce is evenly distributed. Add eggs back in and stir gently.

5. Serve on Chinese noodles and top with cucumber (and bean sprouts if using). Toss before eating (which guests can do for themselves).

mixed Vegetarian Za Jiang Mein 2

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