Local Eats: China Express - Durham, NC

짜장면 - Jjajangmyeon - Noodles in Black Bean Sauce
Between China Express and Thai China I don't think there is a more frequented restaurant for me, Em, and my cousins. We love these "comfort foods" and we love that they are in our town.

Jjajangmyeon is a dish I remember eating as a child and loving instantly. I can't remember the first time I had it but I remember being a kid and finishing my noodles and adding rice to the black bean sauce. The dish isn't much for looks but it's a huge punch in the face of flavor. Salty, earty, and smooth, that's about the best way to describe it. The flavor is very unique, so it's impossible to describe it well. The black bean sauce is obviously the highlight of the dish so it has to be prepared just right. I'll make sure to post a recipe sometime soon for this dish. In the mean time, try to find it in your area!

짬뽕 - Korean-Style Jampong - Spicy Noodle Soup
It's rare that I will go on tour and I will not start craving some good "jampong." It may be one of those ultimate comfort foods for Koreans. It's spicy, it's full of vegetables, it's very filling, and it's cheap. I've eaten this dish at a LOT of restaurants all around the country, and outside of mom making this for me at home, this is the best I've found.

Jampong is a spicy noodle dish that is usually based around a beef or seafood broth. The rich flavors of the broth are enough to cut through the spice from the peppers. A good jampong will have chewy noodles, scalding broth, a generous amount of peppery spice, and a lot of vegetables/protein. Without all of these facets the dish is just not accomplished.

Chinese-style Jampong
The Chinese style of this dish is a bit different. The broth is lighter in color and tastes a little sweeter as well. I often bounce between these two styles a lot to change it up but lately I've found the subtleties of this dish appealing. However, on a deserted island, if I could only take one of these dishes it'd be the Korean style.

깐풍기 Kamponggi - Sweet and Spicy Chicken
This dish is one I remember I'd get as a treat. It takes too much preparation and makes too much of a mess to make it all the time, but my mom would make it for me for my birthday or for special events. It's not terribly difficult, just timing consuming. The sauce is based with soy, sugar/honey, red peppers, and toasted sesame oil, a common combination of flavors for Korean cuisine. It's sweet and spicy in all the right ways.

Anyways, go check this place out. I'd say tell them I sent you, but as many times as I've visited they seem to never remember me. Oh yeah, that reminds me. Don't expect any nice decor or service in a place like this. China Express solely stays open because they offer dishes that the clientele come back for regardless of looks or treatment.

--Joe Kwon

If you want more info on China Express click here.