Japchae: Take 2, The Vegetarian Version

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The first time I made these Korean noodles, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they came out. It was a pretty easy meal to make at home, and they tasted much like the restaurant versions I had enjoyed so many times before. Sure, there's chopping and prep work involved, but nothing difficult. So, I decided to do this again, and try a different recipe.

This version happens to be vegetarian because I was too lazy to go out and purchase meat. And even though it was still tasty, this dish is better with beef. But, some people don't eat beef, and in that case, they won't know what they are missing. If you eat beef, and are not too lazy to run to the store, I suggest getting some.

Another difference in this version is that I used mushrooms. Just a few shiitakes. And they made a difference. Lesson two, don't skip on the mushrooms. There's a few more lessons, so bear with me.

Recently, I've discovered Korean scallions. Or what I think are Korean scallions. They taste similar to regular scallions, but there's something a bit more garlicy about them. I think. I can't really describe it. But, since I purchased them at the Korean market, I call them Korean scallions, and have started using them in my Korean dishes. Lesson three, use Korean scallions if possible.

And the final lesson I learned while making this recipe is that all the ingredients are cooked separately. That is not what I did the first time around. Live and learn my friends.
Japchae, Take Two
4 Servings

6 oz Korean potato starch noodles (dangmyeon)
4 - 5 dried fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked until plump)
4 ounces lean beef like sirloin or rib eye, optional
1 bunch (6 oz) fresh spinach
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
small bunch of scallions

oil to stir fry vegetables and noodles
salt and pepper

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic minced
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

1) Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse in cold water and drain. Cut the noodles with kitchen shears or a knife into 6 -7 inch lengths. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the prepared sauce and set aside

2) If using beef, cut the beef into thin 2-inch long strips and mix with 1 tablespoon of the sauce.

3) Cut stems off the mushrooms and slice into 1/4-inch thin strips. Season with 1 tablespoon of the sauce.

4) Blanch the spinach in boiling water only until wilted. Drain quickly and shock in cold water. Squeeze out excess water, cut into about 2-inch lengths. This made a difference in the texture.

5) In a lightly oiled non-stick skillet, sauté each vegetable , except for the spinach, separately over medium-high heat, lightly sprinkling salt and pepper. The vegetables should be crisp, so don't overcook them. Sauté the beef. Transfer to a large bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the noodles, stirring frequently, until translucent and sticky (about 3 - 4 minutes).

6) Combine all the ingredients and the remaining sauce. Toss well. Taste and add more soy sauce and/or sugar if necessary.

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