I first was exposed to it when I was little. My Aunt Hannah, who is Korean, brought over some “black spaghetti,” as she called it. The black spaghetti looked like packets of ramen, but instead of a soup, it was drained and covered in a sauce. I remember her teaching me the “best” way of cooking it, and going to the local Asian Market snatching them up. Fast forward to 2007. I watched the Korean Drama Coffee Prince. The first episode featured a Jjajangmyeon eat off, and dawned on me what my “black spaghetti” really was.
At the time, there weren’t many online sources for the dish and when checking out local Korean restaurant, none actually had the dish on their menu. The reason is that Jajangmyeon is based on a Chinese dish, Zhaziangmian. The original Zhaziangmian dish uses hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and various bean pastes to get the black sauce. The Korean version uses chunjang, which is a black bean sauce that is much sweeter than it’s Chinese counterpart. There are many differences, but today, you are likely to see Jajangmyeon at a Chinese restaurant in Korea. Think of it a little bit like General Tso in the US, distinctly American in it’s own right but you won’t find it anywhere other than a Chinese food shop.