I often reminisce about the large supermarkets I shopped at in the US. I continue to miss those seemingly endless aisles of shiny produce, diary, cheese, meats and international foods. In particular, I miss my weekly shopping trips to H-Mart – a large supermarket chain specializing in Asian foods. Weekly rounds of H-Mart were the inspiration behind many bold kitchen experiments. It was also a wonderful opportunity to walk around and sample unique food items.
On one such trip I was blown away when I tasted Japchae for the very first time. Japchae is a Korean side dish made from sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon), stir-fried in sesame oil with vegetables, seasoned well with soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Slivers of cooked beef and egg are often added to Japchae. I was so impressed by the harmony of flavours in a simple noodle dish. I feel in love with the umami from the mushrooms and soy, the aroma or sesame oil, the crunch of sesame seeds, and the subtle hint of sweetness the noodles left on the palate. So I started buying the freshly prepared Japchae on each H-Mart trip and made sure I always ordered it as a side at every Korean BBQ restaurant.
Fast forward a few years later, and the closest H-Mart is thousands of miles away. My only option to satiate my Japchae craving is to recreate it my kitchen, with accessible ingredients. My Korean Glass Noodles (Japchae) is recreated using bean thread noodles/glass noodles (lot easier to find in India than sweet potato noodles). Changing the noodles looses a little bit of the starchiness and inherent sweetness of the traditional dish, yet the dish hits the spot as a fairly authentic cousin. So if a trip to Korea or a Korean supermarket isn’t slated in your near future just make this Japchae and get lost in its flavours.
Korean Glass Noodles (Japchae)
Recipe Adapted from Maangchi.com
Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 portions
1 teaspoon garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Sriracha, or another chili sauce
1 tablespoon warm water
6 dried Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced
½ teaspoon garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 packed cups baby spinach, washed and cleaned
250 grams (8 oz) dangmyeon (sweet potato) OR rice noodles OR glass noodles
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 scallions green and white part, split in half-length wise and diced
1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
¾ cup carrot, sliced like thin matchsticks
¾ cup green bell pepper, sliced like thin matchsticks
¾ cup red bell pepper, sliced like matchsticks
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
- Don’t let the number of ingredients or steps in this recipe intimidate you. It is actually a very easy recipe. All you have to do is first prepare all your ingredients and then you can fastidiously walk through all the steps.
- Make the noodle sauce: In a small bowl mix together 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon warm water, Sirarcha, salt and pepper to taste. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Marinate Shiitake mushrooms: Put the shiitake mushrooms into a bowl and mix with 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, ½ teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove the spinach with a slotted spoon or strainer. Let the water keep boiling to cook the noodles. Rinse the spinach in cold water to stop it from cooking. Squeeze it with your hands to remove any excess water. Cut it a few times and put it into a bowl large mixing bowl.
- Put the noodles into the boiling water and cook as per the cooking instructions (on the packaging) of the noodles you are using.
- Strain the cooked noodles and place them into the bowl with the spinach. Add 1 teaspoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Mix the noodles and spinach together. The noodles should be well coated with the oil, so that they do not stick together.
- Heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to a non-stick skillet and heat it on medium high heat. Add the onion and scallions and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the onion looks a little translucent. Transfer to the noodle bowl.
- In the same skillet add 1 teaspoons of vegetable oil. Add the white button mushrooms with a pinch of salt and stir-fry for 2 minutes until the mushrooms are a little juicy. Transfer to the noodle bowl.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. Add the carrots and bell peppers and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Transfer to the noodle bowl.
- In the same skillet now add the marinated mushrooms and cook for a minute. Transfer to the noodle bowl
- Pour the dressing over the noodles and mix everything together by had. Make sure everything is well coated with the dressing. Stir in the sesame seeds and serve at room temperature or lightly warm and serve.