I just came back from a lovely weekend in Bethany Beach, Delaware. My sister and her family are vacationing there for the week and we just went up for the weekend. It was so nice to have the opportunity for our little ones, all under the age of five, to play together. The weekend was filled with lots of giggles, little voices, the pitter patter of tiny feet, and the best part—sweet hugs and kisses.
Before leaving I wanted to share another of my favorite Korean dishes, but just didn’t have the time. Besides Dolsot Bibimbap, another dish I learned to love while living in South Korea is vegetarian Japchae (also known as Chapchae)—a classic Korean stir-fry noodle dish with vegetables.
Nicknamed “glass noodles”, these sweet vermicelli noodles (made of white sweet potato starch) are gray-ish when raw and turn almost translucent and chewy when cooked. Easy to prepare and tasty to eat, Japchae is considered a perfect Korean dish to serve at big parties. I remember finding enormous bowls of japchae at many Korean celebrations. Although japchae is traditionally made for large gatherings and special occasions, it can also be used as a side dish or an appetizer for a simple or elaborate lunch or dinner. As japchae is delicious, hot or at room temperature, I love making it in the summertime.
Serves about 6
12 ounces Korean potato starch noodles
4 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
2 carrots, julienned
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
5 cups spinach
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
4 green onions, sliced
roasted sesame seeds, for garnish
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup soy-sauce (I used reduced sodium organic Tamari, gluten free soy sauce)
1 tablespoon mirin
¼ cup sesame oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3-4 teaspoons garlic chopped
2 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
Make the sauce, combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potato starch noodles and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft and fully cooked. Drain the noodles and rinse in cold water. Drain excess water and place in a large bowl. Using kitchen scissors, randomly cut the noodles just a few times as they are quite long. Don’t over-cut them. Mix noodles with ¼ cup of the sauce. Set aside.
Sauté mushrooms in a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat same process with the carrots, bell pepper and onion.
Bring another large pot of salted water to boil. Blanch spinach leaves just until wilted, about 15-20 seconds. Remove from pot, squeeze out excess water and place in a bowl. Toss with about 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a little garlic, and pinch of salt and pepper.
Combine cooked mushrooms, carrots, bell pepper, onions, and spinach with noodles. Add another ½ cup of the sauce and sesame seeds to the noodle mixture and mix well.Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more sauce if necessary. Add green onions. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature or, if you would like to serve hot, return mix to heat and sauté noodle mixture until heated, about 3-4 minutes.
Notes: Like bibimbap, japchae is quite versatile. You can add tofu and other vegetables. To add tofu, you can follow the recipe for the marinated tofu I often use to make dolsot bibimbap. Feel free to season your japchae according to your preference, adding more soy sauce and/or sesame oil to suit your taste. Have fun with it and enjoy!