Asia, Korea

japchae

Japchae with egg omelet and green onion garnish

When I was in college and visiting my parents on a break, I found a recipe in one of my Mom’s Cooking Light magazines. The feature was on a Korean American woman who I think was also a cook (the details are blurry). She recalled all of her favorite Korean dishes she had growing up.  One of the dishes was “chapchae” or “japchae”.  It sounded so good! I took the magazine to the library to make copies of it and all the other Korean recipes.  Mind you, I was 21 years old in 2003, and this was my first experience with Korean food. I had to rely on these recipes alone having zero background knowledge on the cuisine. Lucky for me, the recipe author was really good at explaining the process.   I went back to my college apartment after the break and made all these Korean dishes.  My favorite was the japchae! This recipe is super fun to eat because of the unique texture of the noodles.  The ingredients are very easy to find.  I know because I could find them all at the Hy-Vee in Iowa in 2001 so I know you can find them wherever you are too. You can find the more authentic Korean sweet potato starch noodles in Asian grocery stores or you can use bean thread noodles which are found in the Asian section of most all grocery stores.

I’m not able to give the recipe author proper credit because her (it was a she) name isn’t on the copies I made.  I’ve made just a few tweaks such as less beef because I like a heavy noodle to beef ratio.

Japchae

serves 4

ingredients:

beef:

1teaspoon cornstarch

6 ounces round steak or sirloin, trimmed and thinly sliced into matchsticks

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger (get the fresh stuff, don’t cheat!)

2 teaspoons sambal oelek plus a teaspoon of gochujang. The original recipe recommends the red Thai chile paste.  I used this back in college and it was really, really good.

1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil

noodles:

1- 3.75 ounce package sweet poato starch noodles (aka jap chae, chap chae, Korean glass noodles) or (mung) bean threads (aka cellophane noodles)

vegetables:

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

5 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 6 ounces), you can use white button mushrooms instead

1 cup (2 inch) julienne-cut carrot

1 cup (2 inch) diagonally sliced green onions

1 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach

remaining ingredients:

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted ( I really enjoyed Eden Shake instead of just sesame seeds)

  1. To prepare beef, sprinkle cornstarch over beef; sprinkle cornstarch over beef; toss to combine. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and next 4 ingredients (1 tablespoon soy sauce through 3 garlic cloves); toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok with a little oil over medium-high heat. Add beef mixture; stir-fry 3 minutes or until done. Remove mixture from pan. Cover and keep warm.
  3. To prepare noodles, pour boiling water over noodles; let stand 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Snip noodles several times with kitchen shears.
  4. To prepare vegetables, wipe skillet or wok clean with paper towels. Heat 1 teaspoons sesame oil and vegetable oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add half of spinach; stir-fry 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add beef mixture and noodles to pan, stirring well to combine. Combine 1/3 cup soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over noodle mixture; stir well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. I also garnished mine with an egg than I beat with a little water and fried into a little omelet that I cut into slices. For the green onions you see in the picture, take a very sharp chef’s knife and cut into thin strips.  I was trying to be like Ivan Orkin.

Please, Cooking Light Magazine, since I know you’re reading this, tell us who was the recipe author! Thank you:-)

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