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.

Radish Cucumber and Mango Salad with honey lime dressing

I remember when I first came to live in the United States.  I was living with a wonderful American family on a farm in Idaho.  A big, huge change.  There were lots of fresh produce available of course, especially in the summer.  That’s when I was introduced to salads.  Don’t get me wrong, salads are eaten all over the world but usually not as a meal.  It’s almost always eaten as part of a meal, like a side dish or even a palate cleanser or like a condiment.  In North America the salad reigns as a meal.  That was a strange thing for me.  To eat an entire meal that was mostly raw.  I remember telling my mom about having a salad for dinner and she exclaimed in dismay, “can’t those people cook?”.  After I got over the initial shock, I grew to love salads.  I love the textures, the freshness and the variety.  They are never going to go over big in any part of South Asia as a meal but I’m winning people over, one at a time.

I had this just the other day.  It was great and refreshing after a hard workout!  Yes, Ma…I ate it as a meal.

Thinly sliced radishes, english cucumbers and some mangoes
Added the vinaigrette
Toss, chill and serve

Radish Cucumber and Mango Salad

4 fresh radishes, thinly sliced

1 English Cucumber, thinly sliced

1 Mango, cut into small bite sized pieces

3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Dressing

1 lime

1 tbsp honey

2 tsp spicy brown mustard

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

fresh cracked pepper

Thinly slice cucumber, radishes and mangoes and place in a medium sized bowl.  Add chopped cilantro.  In a separate bowl zest the lime and then juice the whole lime.  Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and whisk until a thick emulsion is created.  Pour over salad and toss.  Chill and serve.

Zucchini Chicken Rollatini ~ with a cool name, leftover chicken sounds awesome

The last several days were like a blur.  I made too many cookies, ate things other people made that I didn’t like (green bean casserole with little hot dog chunks, bad jello salad with beet pieces and funeral potatoes – that’s a Utah thing ), skipped meals, ran around doing a million things.  It was busy, it was hectic, it was crazy.  But today, I wanted to come home and eat something I made because dang it, my worst effort had to be better than a casserole made of  macerated hot dogs (I have HUGE issues with hot dogs, it’s a long story).  I had leftover baked chicken from last night and a couple of Zucchinis in the fridge.  I decided it would be great to take out my mandolin (the cooking kind, not the musical instrument) and use the zucchini as the noodle and make some kind of a filling with the chicken and other veggies.  It turned out pretty great and it was fast too.  Total time with prep and baking under 45 minutes.  It sure beats the beet jello salad (pun intended).

Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in a pan
Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the butter and stir until smooth
Stir fry a few minutes to get the flour taste out
Add milk and bring to a gentle simmer until sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg
Add Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and stir to melt
Slice a couple of Zucchini lengthwise into thin slices using a mandolin

Veggies I used for the filling, you can use whatever you have on hand
Saute all vegetables and spices in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil
Mix sauteed vegetables with cooked chopped chicken
Add 2/3 of the Bechamel sauce to the chicken mixture, reserve a third for the topping
Roll about 2 tablespoons of filling into each zucchini slice and place in a baking dish
For individual servings, place about three rollatinis inside a ramekin
Put the remaining sauce on the rollatini and sprinkle with a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Do the same with if using ramekins
Bake and serve!
Serve and enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:

Zucchini Chicken Rollatini

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 young zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise (use ends and pieces chopped up as part of the filling)

1/4 cup red onions, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot, shredded

salt to taste

1 tsp dried basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cooked chicken

Bechamel or White Sauce

2 cups 1% milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

pinch of nutmeg

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and a little extra to sprinkle on top

Begin by making the sauce

In a small sauce pan heat butter and add flour.  Stir until flour is blended and smooth and floury taste is gone (a couple of minutes). Slowly add in the milk and keep stirring.  Sauce should thicken as it gently comes to a simmer.  Don’t let it get too thick since it will be cooked again in the main dish.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg stir well and turn off the heat.  Add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and stir until melted (the residual heat will melt all the cheese).  Set aside.

Making the Rollatini and Filling:

Slice the zucchini lengthwise using a mandolin.  It should be nice and thin (bending easily).  Don’t get too close to the end because you’ll chop off your fingers, even with a blade guard!  The extra zucchini ends and pieces can be chopped up and used in the filling.

In a skillet heat the olive oil and add all the vegetables, including the zucchini extra pieces.  Add salt, pepper, garlic and basil and stir fry for a few minutes until vegetables are tender.  Add cooked vegetables to the cooked, chopped chicken and mix well.  Add 2/3 of the Bechamel sauce to the mixture reserving about a 1/3 for the topping.

Place about 2 tablespoons of chicken mixture at one end of the zucchini strip and roll into a little roll.  Place each rollatini in a small 8 x 8 baking dish or if making individual servings, place 3 rollatinis in individual ramekins. Cover the rollatini with the remaining Bechamel sauce and sprinkle a little Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown on the top. (Ramekins will only take about 18-20 minutes to bake).  Enjoy.