Food & Drink

Jaja Is the Secret Sauce that Makes Beijing Street Food So Damn Tasty

And here's how to make it, courtesy of Junzi Kitchen's Chef Lucas Sin.

Zhajiang directly translates to "fried sauce noodles," but Chef Lucas Sin likes to call it Jaja. The sauce itself—a fermented soybean paste cooked in oil—is a Beijing street food staple, and just one of the many Northern Chinese culinary traditions that the Hong Kong native has been serving up at Junzi Kitchen, his bing and noodle bowl restaurant with locations in New Haven, Connecticut, and New York City.

"Jaja has been on our menu since we opened our first restaurant almost three years ago in New Haven," says Sin. "It's been a favorite of ours and speaks to our ambition of making honest Chinese food that is representative of who we are. For Junzi After Hours [the restaurant's new late night bar menu], we make an aioli. Together with garlic and rice vinegar, we make a tangy dipping sauce for our crispy confit chicken wings."

Sin makes his Jaja from three different sources: yellow soybean paste, pixian fava bean paste, and black beans, all rooted in different Chinese provinces. The result is a deep brown, fried, and caramelized sauce that adds immense earthy and savory flavor to any dish. 

Enjoy this taste of Beijing mixed into noodles, over fried chicken, or with just about anything else. 

YIELDS: 1 quart

PREP TIME: 0 hours 30 mins

COOK TIME: 0 hours 50 mins

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 20 mins


1/4 c. fermented black bean

  • 1 c. yellow soybean paste
  • 1/4 c. Pixian Doubanjiang, (chili bean paste)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 scallion whites, washed
  • 1 1" knob ginger, peeled
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. oil (neutral)
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water


  • Soak fermented black beans in warm water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Chop garlic, scallions, and ginger until fine in a food processor. Empty.
  • Drain fermented black beans. Blend with spicy bean sauce and yellow soybean paste in food processor.
  • In wok, heat oil until 300 degrees F.
  • Add aromatics and fry until fragrant, about seven minutes. Add blended bean sauce and brown sugar. Fry at low-medium heat for ~45 minutes until dark and sticky. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  • Remove and let cool.
  • Add warm water and blend until smooth.
  • To serve, toss Jaja sauce with cooked noodles until evenly coated.
  • Garnish with cut cucumbers, slivered scallions, and ginger. (Heat small amount of canola oil to smoking. Splash hot oil over scallions and ginger.)

This story originally appeared on Esquire.comMinor edits have been made by the editors.

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