I’ve been going to Mandarin, a Chinese-Korean restaurant in Palisades Park, for years. They have best jajangmyun (자장면, wheat noodles in black bean sauce) in the area because of their noodles. The noodles are made in-house, and to attest to this fact, they used to have a monitors in the dining area showing the cooks hand-pulling the noodles in the kitchen. Now the monitors show Korean programming. I guess the people working out front got tired of watching the back of the house day in, day out. In any case, the noodles are still good, and late last year I learned about their buljajajangmyun (불자장면, literally “fire jajangmyun”) through my brother’s friend, Young. By the way, I have a somewhat funny story about him. When I started this blog, I used to get a lot of weird comments that I attributed to an evil troll. Later on, I discovered it was Young. See, “somewhat funny.” I guess pestering your friend’s little sister never ends, even when she’s no longer little. Regardless of the source, since then, buljajangmyun has become a favorite of mine and my brother’s.
Buljajangmyun ($8.95) at Mandarin is similar to ganjajangmyun (간자장면) in that the sauce is more intense, and the noodles and sauce are served separately. What sets the two apart, however, are the diced jalapeno peppers in the sauce. Lots of peppers. As a result, the sauce is spicy, extremely spicy. Proceed with caution. I’m warning you, your lips and stomach will burn. I consider it in a good way, you may not.
If you’re sensitive to heat, don’t mix in all the sauce at once. They always give you more sauce than necessary, so add it in little by little. Although the sauce being very thick, if you add too little, the starchy noodles won’t get sauced properly and stick. But really, if you can’t take the heat, order the regular jajangmyung ($6.95). There’s no shame in it. In fact, my mom considers the buljajangmyun a rip. According to her, why pay two more dollars for some peppers?
Of course the other option is the Jjambbong (짬뽕, $8.95), the same house-made noodles in a spicy seafood soup. When I was little, I always preferred jajangmyun over jjambbong because I found the latter too greasy (the vegetables and some of the seafood are sautéed in oil before being added to the soup), but now for some reason, I don’t mind the grease as much and every once in a while I order jjambbong. The jjambbong at Mandarin is pretty good, the noodles are chewy and the soup has a rich seafood flavor. If you can’t decide between the jjambbong or the jajangmyun, Mandarin has the split bowl where you can have half and half, one on either side (called Jjamjamyun, 짬자면), but I prefer to order the opposite of my dining companion instead and share. In the split bowl scenario, I notice you always get less of each. Why have less when you can have more? Especially if one person is ordering the buljajangmyun. Thanks Young for the tip! (No need to leave a comment.)
110 Broad Avenue, 2nd Floor (b/n W Harwood & W Edsall Ave; map)
Palisades Park, NJ 07650