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


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


  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.

Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles

One of the most vivid memories I have of visiting Greece as a teenager is the amazing food.  Everything tasted wonderful and different from foods that I was used to at that time.  I loved the pastries, the meats and the delicate flavors.  It’s during that trip that I began a serious love affair with Spanakopita, a crispy, delicate and delicious Spinach Pie.  I seriously could eat huge quantities of Spanakopita.  Every year in September, my city has a big Greek Festival.  I try to go annually to load up on Greek delicacies that I don’t have time to make.  For years I used to pig out on Spanakopita at the festival, when finally a few years ago I got smart.  I decided that I’d asked all of my Greek friends to give me their very best versions of Spanakopita recipes so I could try them all.  My friends were very helpful and passed on several recipes and over the last several years I’ve combined the things I liked from all of them to come up with this current recipe.  Some families like to make Spanakopita in a large pan and cut them into squares, while others prefer to make them into triangle shapes.  I love the versatility of the triangle shape since it’s so portable and because I can freeze them and bake them up individually (or a whole bunch) whenever I have a craving!

Ingredients at a glance
Saute the onions, garlic, herbs and kosher salt together
When the onions are tender, add the Spinach
Mix in eggs, cheeses and lemon juice to spinach mixture
Cover Fillo dough with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out
Brush Fillo with melted butter
Cut buttered Fillo sheets into three equal strips
Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of spinach mixture on the corner of one strip
Fold into a triangle
Fold it over on itself until it's a complete triangle
Place on a cookie sheet and brush with melted butter before baking
Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes

Here’s the recipe:

Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles

1 box Fillo Dough

2 pounds frozen chopped Spinach (you can use fresh but in this recipe there is very little difference)

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 eggs, beaten

1 tsp oregano

2 tsp basil (I like to use fresh basil)

1 tsp dill

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (you can use dry thyme)

1 tsp kosher salt

5 stalks of Scallions

7 oz crumbled Feta

1/2 cup Ricotta

1/2 cup Cottage cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

3/4 lb (3 sticks) of unsalted butter

4 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Defrost Spinach and squeeze out all excess water and set aside.  In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute onions, scallions, garlic, salt and herbs.  After onions are tender, add Spinach to the mixture and stir fry for a few minutes.  Take off heat and pour it into a large bowl.  Add eggs, cheeses and lemon juice  to the Spinach mixture.  Stir to mix well.

Take out Fillo dough from package and put them on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out.  Melt 3 sticks of butter in a microwave safe bowl  and get a pastry brush.  Place a piece of Fillo dough on a large cutting board and brush it with melted butter, working quickly so the fillo doesn’t dry out, place another sheet on top and brush that with butter as well.  Repeat with three sheets of Fillo.  Using a pizza cutter, cut three equal long strips on the Fillo.  Place a large 1 1/2 tablespoon of spinach filling on the top of one of the strips and fold it at an angle so it forms a triangle.  Keep folding the triangle onto itself until all the filling is enclosed in a triangular shape.  Place it on a cookie sheet and brush the completed triangle with melted butter.  Repeat the procedure withe the other two strips.  Continue making triangles with three sheets of buttered Fillo at a time.  Should yield about 42-46 individual Spanakopitas.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.  Serve warm.

Spinach Chicken Alfredo

It’s Spring Break time.  My house is full of 8 hungry college students who arrived famished from a road trip.  I decided to use the Spinach Basil Pesto http://kolpona.com/2012/03/17/spinach-basil-pesto/ I just put together to come up with a pasta dish.  It turned out great if the empty plates were any indication.

Ingredients at a glance


Heat butter and olive oil together
Saute garlic to release the flavors
Add pesto to the mixture then add flour and stir to cook through.
Add milk and cream until mixture thickens.
Add cheese to sauce and let it melt
Add cooked chicken to the sauce
Add fresh Spinach leaves and take off the heat.


Add Pasta and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve immediately! Serves 6


Here’s the recipe:

Spinach Chicken Alfredo

16 oz of Fettuccine

3 whole cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

4 tablespoons of Spinach Basil Pesto (see recipe)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons of flour

1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken cut into pieces

large handful of fresh Spinach leaves

1 pint of Heavy Cream

2 cups of whole milk

1 cup of Parmiaggiano Reggiano Cheese

1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese

In a 5 quart pan boil water with 5- 6 tablespoons of salt (should be like sea water) and cook pasta for about 8 minutes.  In the mean time, in a large skillet heat olive oil and butter.  Add salt, fresh cracked pepper and minced garlic and sauté about a minute until garlic releases its fragrance.  Add spinach pesto and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add flour to the mixture and cook for about a minute to get the starchy flour smell out.  Slowly begin to add heavy cream and whole milk and stir until mixture begins to thicken.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.  When mixture has thickened nicely, add parmiaggiano Reggiano and mozzarella and stir until melted and incorporated into a smooth sauce.  Add chicken to the mixture.  Add in cooked pasta and toss.  Serve warm with fresh grated cheese on top.

Spinach Basil Pesto

I was recently at Whole Foods and I couldn’t believe how much they were charging for a 6 oz container of pesto.  I am NOT about to pay almost $5 for something that can be made in seconds and taste so much better fresh.  I love fresh Spinach and since today also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to make my version of fresh pesto. After all its so green!!  Spinach and basil makes a great combination.  So delicious, so versatile!

Ingredients at a glance

Toast the Pine nuts in a dry skillet

Mix all ingredients in food processor

This is the glamour shot.

I love to store the pesto in individual packages, usually in a 1/2 cup or 1 cup servings along with the date.

Then I put the individual packs inside a bigger ziplock bag and freeze them.  They keep for 3-4 months in the freezer and you can just heat it up to use it with pasta, as a pizza sauce, with chicken dishes.  The possibilities are endless.

Here’s the recipe:

Spinach Basil Pesto

4 cups tightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves

1 cup of fresh basil

½ cup pine nuts, toasted

5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

½ cup olive oil

½ cup Parmiaggiano Reggiano cheese

In a dry skillet add the pine nuts and heat over medium high heat until lightly brown and toasted.  Should only take about 4-5 minutes.  Let cool.

Place all ingredients except for olive oil in a food processor and turn it on, in a slow drizzle begin to add olive oil through the dispenser until mixture is well incorporated.  Take out and serve immediately with any type of pasta, with chicken or pizza sauce or can put in individual ziplock bags and freeze for up to 4 months.  Cost per 1 cup serving (8 oz)  is only 50 cents.  A far cry from the price of $5 for 6 oz.

Spinach Pakora

16-20 fresh spinach leaves washed and dried well

1 cup of Besan (chick pea flour)

½ cup of rice flour

½ tsp  Hing or asafetida powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 – 2 tsp chili powder (to taste)

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

¾ cup water

¼ tsp baking soda

Oil for deep frying

Mix together all dry ingredients and add water.  Batter should be the consistency of pancake batter with no lumps.

Heat a small pan with oil for deep frying.  Temperature should be about 350 degrees if you’re using a thermometer otherwise add a small drop of batter into the oil if it floats to the top fairly quickly, the oil is ready.  Use medium heat so oil does not start to smoke.  Dip spinach leaves one at a time into batter and scrape most of it off by dredging it along the side of the batter pan.  The leaf should be coated but not heavily covered.  Gently place into the hot oil.  Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side until a nice golden brown color.  Take out of oil with a slotted spatula and place into a platter lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil.  Serve warm with tamarind or cilantro Chutney or even ranch dressing if desired.