Japchae – Korean style sweet potato noodles

Even though I love eating food from all over the world, I feel as though I could cook food from Asia and never run out.  That is because Asia is a huge continent.  Almost 80% of the entire world’s population resides in Asia.  It is also a very diverse continent, not only in culture and people but with food as well.  Even though I grew up eating a lot of South Asian food (from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan),  I love food from other parts of Asia as well.  Korean food is one of the cuisines that I have really enjoyed the last few years.  The sheer amount of side dishes that can be prepared is delightful and the taste range varies from spicy hot to fresh and mild.  I especially love to make meals that are tasty, looks gorgeous and has lots of vegetables.  Which is why I have been making a lot of Japchae lately.  It is a Korean dish made with sweet potato noodles.  I love the texture of sweet potato noodles, it is a lot like glass noodles or cellophane noodles (made with Mung beans) – it is slightly chewy, absorbs flavors well and can be eaten hot or at room temperature.   This makes it perfect for picnics, pot lucks or summer days at the park. It is also a dish that can be easily made completely vegetarian by substituting Shittake mushrooms for the beef.  I guarantee that if you make this for your next get-together, you will be the hit of the party.  You can buy sweet potato noodles at most Asian markets or online.  Here’s the method:

korean sweet potato noodles
korean sweet potato noodles
Japchae Ingredients at a glance
Japchae Ingredients at a glance
Marinated beef for japchae
Marinated beef for japchae
Cook the egg, then cut into strips
Cook the egg, then cut into strips
Blanch the spinach then place in cold water
Blanch the spinach then place in cold water
Stir fry the green and regular onion
Stir fry the green and regular onion
Stir fry mushrooms
Stir fry mushrooms
Stir fry carrots then add red peppers
Stir fry the marinated beef
Stir fry the marinated beef
Stir fried ingredients
Add noodles and toss
Mixed Japchae
Mixed Japchae
Serve warm or at room temperature
Serve warm or at room temperature

Japchae

Korean style sweet potato noodle stir-fry

Serves 4 – 6 (depending on appetite)

Beef Marinate:

4 – 6 ounces eye of round beef, cut into ¼ inch wide and 2½ inch long strips (The butcher can use a slicer to do this for you)

OR if you would like to make this a vegetarian dish, substitute dried Shittake mushrooms for the beef strips

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp ginger, grated

1 tbsp rice wine

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp rice syrup (can substitute corn syrup or raw sugar)

1 tbsp applesauce

½ tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together. Make sure all the beef strips are well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Japchae stir-fry:

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp and 1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

2 large eggs

½ tsp rice wine

1 bundle of spinach, washed and drained

1 bundle of Sweet potato noodles or glass noodles

3 green onions, cut crosswise into 2 inch long pieces

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 -6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

¾ cup julienned carrots (match sticks)

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

ground black pepper

salt to taste

oil as needed

Method:

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl. Beat in a pinch of salt and ½ tsp rice wine with a fork.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to a heated nonstick pan. Swirl the oil around so it covers the pan, pour in the eggs and tilt the pan so the mixture spreads thinly. The eggs will cook quickly, about 1 minute. Flip the eggs over and let it sit on the pan for 1 more minute. Remove from heat, cool and cut into strips. Set aside.
  3. Bring a 4-5 quart dutch oven of water to a rolling boil. Add the bunch of spinach and blanch for about 30 seconds. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, take out the spinach and place in a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Squeeze out all the excess water. Season with 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil and mix well. Place in a large mixing bowl.   Keep the water in the pan boiling to cook the sweet potato noodles.
  4. Break the noodles into 3 inch section and drop into the boiling water and stir. Cook for 5-7 minutes until noodles are nicely cooked, yet slightly chewy. Place the noodles into the large bowl next to the spinach and add 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Mix together while the noodles are still warm so all the flavors are well absorbed.
  5. Heat a 12” skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, when it begins to shimmer, add the onion, the green onion, and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry about 2 minutes until the onion are translucent. Place the onions over the noodles.
  6. In the same skillet pour another 1-2 tsp of oil then add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Cook until mushrooms soften and begin to release a little water, about 1 minute. Add to the bowl of noodles.
  7. Heat up the skillet and add 1 tsp vegetable oil. Place the carrots and stir-fry for 30 to 40 seconds. Add the red bell pepper strips and a pinch of salt and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Transfer to the noodle bowl.
  8. Return the pan to the heat source for the final time and add 2 tsp of oil. Add the marinated beef (discard any extra liquid). Stir-fry until beef is fully cooked and no longer pink. Place the cooked beef in the noodle bowl.

In the noodle bowl add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and about 2 tsp of toasted sesame seeds and mix all together by hand. Top with additional toasted sesame seeds and egg strips.  You can serve this at room temperature or hot.  The noodles are very versatile.

Vietnamese Style Spring Rolls

There is nothing I like better than making and eating fresh spring rolls.  They are tasty, they are healthy, they have delightful textures AND they are portable.  But what I really, really, absolutely LOVE (as in a twirl my dress and spin around kind of giddiness-love) is the peanut dipping sauce.  I could eat it by the bucketful.  To tell you the truth, the spring rolls for me are sort of a Peanut Sauce delivery system. I have been known to eat the peanut sauce on ice cream (try it, you will love it, I promise), with apples and pears, even bananas.  Sometimes, if I think nobody is watching, I will lick my plate of any residual peanut sauce (don’t judge me).  It is my “green eggs and ham”

Let’s start with the recipe for the sauce:

peanut sauce
Mix in ingredients into the oil and garlic/ginger saute.

 

 

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1 tbsp canola oil

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

½ inch piece of ginger grated

OR just one tablespoon of ginger garlic paste you’ve blended together

5 tbsp water or chicken broth—may add more as needed

5 tbsp hoisin sauce

½ cup peanut butter

1 tbsp Sirarcha sauce or Sambal Oelek

1 tbsp Palm sugar or brown sugar (Palm sugar adds a wonderful depth of flavor that is not to be missed)

Heat oil in a small pan and add the garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant. Add in the hoisin sauce and water or broth and stir for a minute or two. Next add the peanut butter, Sriarcha or Sambal Oelek and Palm sugar and stir until well blended and sugar dissolves. Add additional water if needed. Sauce should be smooth but thick. Take off heat and top with additional crushed peanuts and diced Thai chili if desired or more Sambal Oelek.

To make this sauce Vegan or soy free:

1 Tbsp canola oil

2 cloves garlic

¼ inch piece of ginger grated

5 tbsp vegetable broth or stock

½ tsp salt

½ cup peanut butter

2 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tbsp Sriarcha sauce or Sambal Oelek

1 Tbsp Palm Sugar

3– 4 tbsp of water

Heat oil in a small pan and add the garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant. Add in all the remaining ingredients except for the water. Stir until well blended and heated through. Add the water (more or less depending on consistency). Sauce should be slightly thick and smooth. Top with additional crushed peanuts and diced Thai Chillis if desired.

rice paper
Choose the size of rice paper you like (bigger is easier to work with)

 

Rice paper
Dip the rice paper into warm tap water and turn to get it wet
Glass noodles
soak the rice stick noodles in water to soften (10 minutes)
Veggies
Get all veggies ready to begin rolling

 

 

Shrimp
Slice shrimp into halves (they nestle nicely in the roll)

 

 

 

spring rolls
Place veggies 1/3 of the way into paper and tuck in

 

 

Vietnamese Spring roll
Tuck in the edges before the next revolution

 

Spring roll
Place shrimp cut side up and tucked along the edges

 

vietnamese spring rolls
The shrimp shows through the paper
spring rolls and sauce
Enjoy with the peanut sauce

 

spring rolls and sauce
Peanut sauce delivery system

 

Vietnamese spring roll

Spring Rolls

Rice spring roll paper (12 sheets)

Warm tap water (several cups in a bowl to soften rice paper)

Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced

Cabbage, shredded

1/3 package of thin rice vermicelli noodles, cooked

cucumbers, thinly sliced horizontally

1 Shredded carrot

1 cup bean sprouts

twelve pieces of long chives

handful of Cilantro

handful of fresh mint (peppermint variety – found in Asian markets)

Cooked shrimp, deveined and sliced in half

Or you can use Chinese style BBQ pork (Char Shu)

Or chicken

Or use only vegetables without any proteins

 

Thoroughly wash all the vegetables and prepare them as listed above. Soak the rice vermicelli noodles for 6 to 10 minutes in hot water then rinse them under cool tap water. I buy the pre cooked shrimp that’s already deveined and cleaned and then slice them in half (usually at Costco). I also buy all my produce at the Asian Market because they are a LOT cheaper.

There are a million brands of rice paper. Choose the cheapest one. They are pretty much the same.

Dip the paper in warm water, turning it in a circle as you dip and gently press in the middle to get the whole paper wet. Avoid sticking the whole paper in a bowl and letting it float around. It just needs to get wet – not soaking wet. Gently shake off excess water and place the sheet on a cutting board or plate in front of you. On the top third of the paper closest to you, place a small bundle of romaine lettuce and cabbage, next put the vermicelli noodles on top followed by the carrots, sprouts, cucumber, a few leaves of mint, one frond of chives and two small leaves of cilantro. Fold the paper closest to you over the vegetables and tuck tightly under. Once you’ve rolled one revolution, tuck the left and right side into the roll. There should be some paper still left in the front, place the shrimp cut side facing up (like inverted “u”) next to the roll and finish rolling up the spring roll. You should be able to see the Shrimp from the outside . Serve with peanut dipping sauce. Serve at room temperature. Avoid making ahead and refrigerating since the rice paper dries out or gets too soggy. If you must take it somewhere to eat/serve it, wrap each roll in plastic wrap so they do not stick to each other and serve within 2-3 hours.

 

Pulled Pork Empanadas

There’s nothing tastier than a pork butt or shoulder roast slow cooked in a crockpot or in the oven.  It’s one of those things that can cook in the background while you go about your business.  I usually season my pork butt or shoulder with a rub of fresh garlic, sea salt, cumin, a little ground coffee and onion powder (with a little olive oil thrown in).   I know you’re thinking ground coffee?  What the heck?  But it really is tasty.  Not too much just a few teaspoons but it really amps up the other flavors. It’s a pretty basic rub down because I like to add other spices to the pulled pork later on to make different dishes out of the same piece of roast.  A good size pork roast can yield BBQed pulled pork sandwiches, or tacos and burritos.  I’ve even made pulled pork momos, tamales and potstickers.  Who can go wrong with a well done pig?

This time I decided to make pork Empanadas out of the pulled pork.  It was fast and worked well for a weekday dinner with a fresh slaw made with red cabbage.  The leftovers are great for lunch the next day too.  Everybody at your work will want some of your lunch as soon as you start heating it up.  Guaranteed!

On a side note.  Today, July 6th, I finally finished off the Master Cleanse.  I was so excited to eat real food.  I was thinking about it last night going to bed and dreaming up what I’d make for breakfast.  I thought of eating these Empanadas but didn’t feel like that for breakfast.  So, I decided to make an egg white frittata with caramelized onions and asparagus spears and fresh basil.  I was super excited.  I took two bites and couldn’t eat another thing.  I got kind of nauseous.  I guess I have to slow down and eat a few little things.  Let my body catch up slowly.  I ate only raw vegetables and fruits yesterday so today I should be able to ease into real food.  We shall see.  On the bright side, I do feel really, really good and I think I will try this again next year some time, maybe not for the whole 21 days though.

Cook up the pulled pork mixture
Roll out the empanada dough
Place pork mixture on one end of the rolled out dough
Fold over dough and crimp with a fork
Brush with egg wash
Bake and serve warm!

Pulled Pork Empanadas

Empanada dough:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sugar

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk (save the egg white for the egg wash)

1/3 cup ice water

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Pulled Pork Filling:

1 1/2 pound of cooked, pulled pork

1/2 onion, diced

4 tbsp oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chipped

1 jalapeno, chopped

1 tsp cumin

1/4 cup water

Egg wash:

egg white, beaten

1 tsp water

For the dough: Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined, add butter and pulse a few times until it resembles coarse meal.

Mix together the egg yolk, water, and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the mixture to the dough, pulsing until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gently knead until it just comes together. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

For the filling:  Heat oil in a sauce pan and saute the onion, garlic and jalapeno together until onions are translucent and the garlic is flavorful.  Add in cumin and water and simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes.  Toss in cilantro leaves before turning off the heat.

Assembly: Roll out the Empanada dough into 5 – 6 inch circle (I was making a little larger ones because it was for dinner).  Place 1/4 cup (or more if you want it fuller) of meat mixture on one end of the dough.  Bring the other half over the meat mixture and using a fork crimp the edges.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Whisk together egg white and water  and brush each empanada.  Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Great Leftover Challenge #2 Chicken Artichoke Spinach Pepperoni Pizza

I hate things going to waste.  I also hate opening up the fridge and seeing small containers of mismatched leftovers.  It’s annoying.  A few days ago I made Spinach Artichoke dip for people hanging around the house.  It was a huge hit but I had about a cup of it leftover.  I also made some quick rise rolls in my cast iron skillet (I’ve loved making these fast rolls) but since the skillet only holds twelve rolls, I have dough left over.  I also had ONE piece of grilled chicken left over.  It was time to clean out all this stuff and make one dish.  I am also a big fan of Danny’s Kitchen, a great blog.  A few months ago Danny started a contest called The Great Leftover Challenge.  I participated in that first challenge and had a lot of fun.  Danny has thrown down the gauntlet again for The Great Leftover Challenge #2.  So….since I’m throwing stuff together anyway, I thought I’d enter the challenge.  Judging by how quickly the pizza got eaten, I’d say it was a hit.

I did pre-heat my oven to 500 degrees with my pizza stone in it.  This made the surface really hot and I think helped the crust develop really nicely.  I have other great recipes for pizza crust but this “leftover” dough made a pretty darn good showing!

Lay dough on preheated stone and spread spinach artichoke dip on top
Add grilled chicken, pepperoni and cheeses
Bake for 8-10 minutes and serve

Chicken Artichoke Spinach Pepperoni Pizza

Quick Rise Rolls (half recipe)

Any leftover grilled or pre-cooked chicken

1 cup Spinach Artichoke Dip (I’ll post the recipe for this soon)

1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese

1/3 cup cheddar cheese

Pepperoni

Preheat oven to 500°F with Pizza Stone in it (or if you’re using a metal pan, heat that as well).  Roll out the dough and carefully lay it on the preheated pizza stone.  Spread spinach artichoke dip evenly over the dough.  Sprinkle the chicken and pepperoni and finish off with cheese on top.  Place back in oven and turn heat down to 450°F.  Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes until crust is brown and cheese is bubbly.

Brown Rice and Red Lentils with Raisins and Curry Leaves

I’ve never put together this particular combination together before.  I was adding spices as I went along. The combination of the brown rice and red lentils  go pretty well together because they cook for the same amount of time.  The red lentils almost disappear, adding a richness to the texture of the rice. It had a nutty flavor from the rice and a touch of sweetness from the raisins that goes really well with the cardamom flavors.  A great rice dish that goes with so many proteins like pork chops, gola kabobs (that’s how we ate them) and as a light meal by itself.

Brown rice and red lentils
Saute onion with curry leaves, cardamoms and cumin seeds
Add in raisins

Add rice and lentils

Serve with Gola Kabobs