Tag Archives: korean

japchae: yummy korean noodles

13 Apr

Whenever I start a new job, my biggest concern is food. Feeding times. Snacks. Packing lunches. How my hours will affect weeknight dinner plans. What can I say, I’m a primate and I gotta EAT!

As an adieu to the fancy weeknight cooking I’ve become accustomed to working from home for the past year, I whipped up one fabulous weeknight “last supper” — Chinese-style steamed halibut, sauteed pea shoots, sukjunamul, and a Korean-style noodle dish called japchae.

This kind of Chinese-Korean hodgepodge meal is my favorite, probably because I am a hodgepodge of these ethnicities myself. Add a couple sides of kimchi or sashimi, and you’ll find me clapping with excitement.

I had never attempted japchae before, but it seemed pretty straightforward — sweet potato noodles, veggies, and some beef. I happened to have a scattering of leftover veggies and beef from Shabu Sunday (a new tradition), so this recipe also helped clean out the fridge!

japchae: korean noodles
chewy happy food

* 8 ounces sweet potato noodles
* 1/2 bunch spinach (about 4 ounces), rinsed and trimmed
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 6 ounces beef rib-eye, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick strips
* 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 1/4 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
* 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
* 1 carrot, julienned
* 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths, whites halved and separated
* 1/4 cup sugar (I used agave nectar to avoid dissolving issues)
* Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Cook the sweet potato noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Be sure not to overcook the noodles, or they will lose their chewy texture. If you like, cut the noodles with scissors into 6- to 7-inch lengths for easier eating.

Blanch the spinach in boiling water. Rinse immediately under cold water, squeeze the water from the leaves and form into a ball, and then cut the ball in half. Combine the spinach, half the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the sesame oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Set aside to let the flavors soak in.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, the remaining garlic, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Stir-fry until the beef is cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, mushrooms, and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the green onions and stir-fry for another minute. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the noodles, beef mixture, spinach, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and the sugar. Serve warm, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Serves 4 to 5 as a side dish. Adapted from Quick and Easy Korean Cooking.

sukjunamul: korean-style bean sprouts

30 Mar

My goodness it’s hot out! According to the needle of my 1970’s thermostat, it reached a tropical 80-degrees in my western-facing apartment today.

As I sit here in my little greenhouse, sweating more than is appropriate in March, all I can think of is vegetables. Cool, crisp, watery plants. I want to shove as many as possible into my mouth, pronto. This must be how it feels to be a brontosaurus — giant and slowed by climate assault, and all you want to do is eat trees.

My refreshing vegetable of choice is the mung bean sprout. Mung beans are recognized in Asian culture as a “cool” food, which is easy to digest and has a cooling effect on the body. In Korean cooking, mung bean sprouts are blanched, seasoned, and served in an appetizer set of small dishes (including kimchi) called banchan.

I love Korean food because it’s so simple to prepare. It seems Koreans are only aware of five spices: garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and red pepper paste. Once you have these basics in your cupboard, you can make almost any Korean dish, including this refreshing vegetable side.

sukjunamul: korean-style bean sprouts
a crispy oasis

* 1 lb bean sprouts
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
* 2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 2 teaspoons minced garlic
* 1/3 cup finely chopped green onion

Add bean sprouts to boiling water and simmer for five minutes. Drain well.

Stir in the salt, sesame seeds, sesame oil, garlic, and green onions. Saute in a saucepan for a minute. Serve room temperature or cold.

quick cucumber kimchi

5 Oct

A few years ago, Anthony Bourdain starred in a No Reservations episode about South Korea. In it, he visited a tiny town in the countryside of Seoul known for making kimchi the traditional way — by hand, tucked into giant clay jars, buried in the earth to ferment. Little old ladies slathered layer upon layer of cabbage leaves with bright red paste and raw oysters…*drool.*

Since then, I often daydream of visiting the last of my ancestral homelands to pay homage to their rustic kimchi factory… ah, someday!

When I’m craving the stinky red stuff, I head to First Korean Market near my house. Their kimchi selection is tops in SF (cabbage, turnip, cucumber), and they have it readily available fresh in the banchan bar or jarred in many sizes. I especially love their crisp cucumber variety — heavy on the garlic and even heavier on fermented fish flavor.

Last week, I was too lazy to walk over to the market and I decided to make my own fresh cucumber kimchi (non-fermented, crunchy, spicy and garlic-y). In Hawaii, you can buy this kind of kimchi at the grocery store — here in Cali, the Koreans only make fresh cucumber pickles that are mild, sweet and mixed with sesame seeds.

quick cucumber kimchi
this will give you crazy korean breath, so beware

* 2 Japanese cucumbers
* Kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon coarse-ground Korean red pepper (I used 2 crushed/seeded bird’s eye chilies)
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1 teaspoon peeled, grated ginger
* 2 tablespoons sliced green onion

Wash unpeeled cucumber, cut off ends and cut into bite-sized pieces.

In a nonreactive bowl, layer the pieces with a generous sprinkling of salt between each layer. Toss and stir to distribute salt. Allow to sit for 25 minutes, then rinse off a piece and taste. If too salty, wash cucumber in cold water and proceed. If not salty enough, allow to marinate longer (I did 45 minutes). When the flavor is right, rinse in cold water.

In a bowl, stir together Korean red pepper, sugar, garlic, ginger and green onion. Add cucumber, toss well. It will lose crispness after 24 hours, so I’d advise you to eat it right away. Store in the fridge.