This bowl of Zha Cai Rousi Mian is as tasty as it is easy. It’s one of my favorite quick meals, and also my kryptonite at any restaurant that serves it. If I see it on a menu, I have to order it!
What Is Zha Cai?
Zha cai is a type of Chinese pickle originating in Sichuan, China. It is made from the fist-sized green stem of a certain type of mustard plant.
You may find it labeled, “Sichuan pickled vegetable” or “Chinese pickled vegetable,” though these English translations can also apply to other ingredients. It’s also sometimes translated to “salted spicy radish,” as it is on the packages in our photos, which is a bit misleading. To know for sure, look for these Chinese characters on the package: 榨菜.
It has a crunchy texture, and salty, tangy flavor. You’ll find it in small vacuum sealed pouches. It is usually pre-chopped for convenience, and can be added to noodle soups, congee, doujiang, or eaten on its own. You may also see it in Shanghainese rice rolls, though they are a relatively uncommon sight outside of China.
When it comes to the dish we’re talking about today, zhà cài ròusī miàn (榨菜肉丝面) translates to “noodle soup with shredded pork and pickled mustard stems.”
Why Is Zha Cai Rousi Mian So Popular?
While this might be your first time hearing of this noodle soup, it is extremely popular in China. This tasty soup commonly shows up both on home tables and in restaurants.
The combination of the savory pork and the tangy, slightly spicy, salty pickle contrasts perfectly with the pure flavor of the broth and noodles.
It is also extremely quick and easy to make, which is why it’s the ideal speedy meal, whether people are in their home kitchens or out and about.
I love it, and have been eating it since I was a kid and my mom would whip it up when we needed something fast and tasty to eat.
Let’s talk about how to make it.
Zha Cai Rousi Mian: Recipe Instructions
Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles, and cook according to package instructions.
Drain and distribute between two bowls.
Meanwhile, in another pot, bring the chicken stock (homemade greatly preferred but not 100% necessary if you’re short on time) to a boil and keep warm on the stove. Taste for seasoning and season with salt to taste if desired.
Heat your wok over high heat until smoking. Add a tablespoon of oil, and stir-fry the pork until browned.
Add the zhacai and sugar, and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Zha Cai Rousi Mian
For the pork:
For the rest of the soup:
- 8 ounces fresh white noodles (use half this weight if using dried noodles)
- 4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 7 ounces pickled mustard stems (may also be labeled “pickled radish” - look for 榨菜 - Zha Cai on the label)
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 scallion (chopped)
- In a small bowl, combine the pork, cornstarch, oil, wine, oyster sauce, and salt. Set aside to marinate while preparing the other ingredients.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles, and cook according to package instructions. Drain and distribute between two bowls.
- Meanwhile, in another pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil and keep warm on the stove. Taste for seasoning and season with salt to taste if desired.
- Heat your wok over high heat until smoking. Add a tablespoon of oil, and stir-fry the pork until browned. Add the Zha Cai and sugar, and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
- Ladle hot broth over the noodles, and top with the pork and Zha Cai mixture. Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and scallions. Serve.