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.

Thai style beef with basil and death to snails…

I really, really enjoy the flavor of Thai Basil.  It’s such a fresh tasting herb with a slight almost licorice kind of flavor to it.  I try to grow it every summer along with a wide variety of other basil plants.  Last year, I had a huge snail problem in my garden and they began to feast on my Thai Basil before I could. It made me so mad.  I tried all kinds of tricks without having to use harsh chemicals.  Like beer.  Yes, beer.  I heard that snails were attracted to beer.   According to a friend of mine, if you put some beer in a shallow pan near plants you want snails to avoid, they climb into the beer and drown.  So, I went to the store, bought some really cheap beer in several 6-packs because I wanted to really drown the suckers.  I had pie pans all over my yard with beer in them.  I found a few drunken snails but not the horde that I was expecting.  My friend suggested that my beer was too cheap.  Seriously?  They were expecting micro brewed ale? I was not about to throw a Keg party for the snails.  I tried “organic” snail bait and ground glass, didn’t work.  This year, I’m planting basil in flower pots all over my patio.  Maybe that will work.  Snails are gross, but this recipe rocks.  Hey, if you have any snail genocide ideas, please let me know. …

Add soy sauce and corn starch to beef and mix well
Had to share the directions on the back of the noodle package. LOVE IT!
Thai Basil
Stir fry beef with garlic and ginger
When meat is no longer pink, add in onion, red pepper, sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal olek and coconut milk
Add Thai Basil after heat is turned off
Thai style beef with basil!

Thai Style Beef with Basil

1/2 pound beef, thinly sliced ( I used chuck  roast)

2 tsp corn starch

2 tsp soy sauce

1 big bunch of Thai basil

2 tbsp sweet soy sauce

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

5 whole garlic cloves, minced

Red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1/3 cup coconut milk

3 tbsp oil

1 1/2  tsp sambal olek

2 tsp fish sauce

Vegetarian thin noodles or you can use glass noodles

Thinly slice some beef.  Half frozen beef is great because then you can really slice it thin.  Mix beef with soy sauce and corn starch and set aside.  In a wok or large skillet heat the oil.  Add garlic and ginger and then add the beef.  Stir fry for 2 minutes or so until meat is no longer pink.  Add bell pepper and onion and continue to stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add in sambal olek, sweet soy sauce, fish sauce and 1/3 cup  coconut milk.  The sauce should be thickening up within a minute or two.  Take off heat and add in Thai Basil.  Stir to mix in and wilt all the basil.  Serve over noodles or with some brown rice!

Sobudhana Kitchuri – You did what with Tapioca?

As a dietitian, I get asked about food related things all the time.  Usually at parties or social situations.  “Do you have a special diet to reduce gas?”  “What should I cook for my kids who are allergic to peanuts, dairy, gluten and corn?” My personal favorite, “I don’t like to exercise but do you have a diet for me to lose about 20 pounds?”  Contrary to popular belief, dietitians don’t go around making up “diets” or prescribing magic food pills.  It’s still a good idea to eat things in moderation and to exercise regularly but I guess that advice is just not sexy enough. (I feel a rant coming on….)

In the last several years people have been diagnosed with a lot more food allergies or intolerances.  Gluten (the protein found in wheat, rhy, spelt and bulgar and wheat by-products) allergies are becoming very common as well as various nut allergies and a hyper sensitivity to high fructose corn syrup.  A typical western diet is very high in gluten and processed sugars. There are two simple solutions to these dietary dilemmas:  Learn to eat and actually try a variety of foods and cook something! Whenever we buy pre-packaged foods, we deliver control of our life to someone else and it costs more, not only the food but long-term health related costs. I know sometimes it can’t be avoided but I’m not willing to trade convenience for the sake good taste or health!…..official END of rant here.

Most people who live in the U.S. have never thought of cooking tapioca (which is actually a starch from the Cassava plant) in savory dishes.  It is reserved mostly for puddings or the ubiquitous “frog eye salad” (not really a salad but a Jello concoction).  Tapioca can be eaten in a variety of savory dishes.  Here’s a Sobudhana kitchuri ( Sobudhana means Tapioca and Kitchuri basically means a “hodge podge” or “mixture”) made out of tapioca.  I made a kitchuri out of Quinoa not too long ago and this is very similar. It’s a tasty alternative to rice or pasta and it’s totally gluten free and vegan.  Besides the soaking of the tapioca (just do it overnight) everything comes together in 8 minutes.  I timed it!

Dry tapioca
Gently wash in cold water and then soak in 1/2 cup of cold water for 6-8 hours

After 8 hours of soaking the tapioca should be double in size and dry and fluffy.
Most of the ingredients (minus the peas and the lemon--oops)
Toast the cashews in a hot dry skillet
Add oil to pan and stir fry cumin seeds, black mustard and dried red chilies
Add carrots and peas
Add garlic and apricots to the mixture and stir fry
Add tapioca to the mix then add the turmeric
Add in cashews, lemon juice and chopped cilantro and take off heat
It's slightly sweet and spicy with a delightful crunch

Here’s the recipe

Sobudhana Kitchuri

1 1/2 cups of tapioca

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup cashews

1/2 cup frozen baby peas

6 dried apricots, diced

2 tbsp chopped Cilantro (Coriander leaves)

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

2 dry red chilies

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 carrot, shredded

4 tbsp oil

Gently was the tapioca in COLD water (or you’ll have a hot mess) and put 1/2 cup of cold water in tapioca to soak 6-8 hours.  Do not skimp on the time, this helps the tapioca fluff up but also to dry out so it’s not a gelatinous mess when stir frying.

In a dry hot skillet stir fry the cashews until they are toasted.  Set aside.  In the same skillet add the oil and heat it up.  Add cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and the red chili peppers.  Stir fry until the mustard seeds and cumin seeds start crackling.  Add in the peas and shredded carrot and stir fry a few minutes.  Add in garlic and chopped apricots and stir to incorporate then add in the tapioca.  Stir fry until everything is blended in, then add the turmeric, lemon juice and chopped cilantro leaves.  Mix well and take off heat. Serve warm.