Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Japchae/Chap Chae - Korean Mixed Vegetables and Cellophane Noodles

A Korean-style noodle dish, made with mixed vegetables, marinated chicken or beef and cellophane noodles, finished with a soy-based sauce.
A Korean-style noodle dish, made with mixed vegetables, marinated chicken or beef and cellophane noodles, finished with a soy-based sauce.

Korean Mixed Vegetables and Cellophane Noodles

The first time I tasted this dish I fell in love with it.

My neighbor, right across the street from me, was born in Korea. She married a military man and has been living in the states for many years now, but most of her family are still living in Korea. She is such a sweet and delightful person, and I love her to death.

She has the most beautiful yard and is the only person I have ever seen, who can dig around in her garden, putting in new plants, while fully dressed in street clothes, and not break a sweat or get a speck of dirt on her!

You'd understand the significance of that better if you saw what I look like when I dig in the garden.

Trust me. It ain't pretty.
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Every once in a while, when she makes this dish, she comes across the street and brings me a plate of it, and even if I've already had dinner, I cannot help but to get into it right away.

I've mentioned several times to her that I would love for her to show me how she does this, but she sort of brushes me off and I think it's because she really enjoys making it and bringing it to me. According to her, her girls don't like it, but she knows I love it!

Seong's version of Korean Mixed Vegetables and Noodles with Chicken

Every once in a while, in between those visits, I would have a taste for this dish, so I set off trying to recreate it. I can't seem to quite get the sauce right, so while it doesn't taste quite the same as hers, I'll take it as an acceptable substitute, but hey... I'll keep trying and maybe I'll get there one day!

I know the ingredient list and directions look daunting - but don't be afraid! Like any stir fry, I've just separated them into the steps, and really this is like a stir fry dish but with noodles.
  • First you marinate the beef or chicken
  • Then you reconstitute the bean thread noodles
  • Then you stir fry the vegetables
  • Add the noodles and put it all together
Let's make some Korean Mixed Vegetables with Cellophane Noodles!

You can use straw, shiitake, wood ear or just plain sliced button mushrooms. If using dried mushrooms, you'll need to rehydrate them by soaking in very warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse and gently massage mushrooms to remove any dirt, rinse again, drain and pat dry. Slice into strips, thin for shiitake, thicker for wood ear. Sliced button mushrooms, even canned, are fine to substitute.

I'm using bean thread noodles which also need to be rehydrated. The bean thread noodles I buy come with 3 bunches in a package. They are unusual looking noodles - sometimes called cellophane or glass noodles, because they are a clear noodle. For this recipe, I use 2 of those bunches, so I'd say do about one bunch per serving. For the noodles, prepare a small pot or kettle of boiling water. Place the noodles in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them.

Let the noodles soak according to the package directions, tossing periodically with a fork.
When ready, drain well and set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk together the marinade ingredients. 
Slice meat in thin slices and add to marinade; set aside.
Heat a heavy stainless skillet or wok over medium high heat add sesame seeds to dry skillet and toast until lightly browned; remove and set aside.

Mise en place y'all! Meaning, get all of the vegetables chopped, sliced, minced and julienned and set aside ready to stir fry, before you start. Tip: Prep all that you can ahead of time!

I'm using this handheld julienne peeler for the carrots. It's a handy tool if you love doing stir fry dishes for sure! If your carrots are cut this thin, you can add them after you cook the raw onion and bell pepper.  If your carrots are sliced thicker you'll want to cook them a little bit longer, so add them in the skillet first, before the raw onion and bell pepper.

Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat. Add the meat strips, reserving the marinade, and quickly stir fry about 2 to 3 minutes until cooked. Remove and set aside; wipe out skillet.

Add remaining tablespoon of the oil and the raw onion and bell pepper and stir fry 2 minutes. Add the carrots and stir fry 1 minute more. Again, if your carrots are sliced thicker, you'll want to cook them a little bit longer, so add them in the skillet first, before the raw onion and bell pepper. If you're using thawed frozen pepper blend, which I often do and have here, you'll wait to add those after you stir fry the raw veggies.

Add the garlic, spinach and ginger and if using raw mushrooms, add them here too.

Stir fry for 2 minutes more.

Add the green onion and toss.

I'm using canned mushrooms today, so those don't need to go in until the rest of the veggies have been stir fried.

Scoot vegetables to the outside of pan and stir the sauce into the center. Bring to a full boil. Toss vegetables into the sauce.

Add the drained noodles and toss continuously until most of the sauce is absorbed.

Add the beef or chicken back to the skillet and warm through.

Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds, parsley and red pepper flakes, if using; stir and serve. Good served either warm, at room temperature or cold.

Dig in and enjoy!

A Korean-style noodle dish, made with mixed vegetables, marinated chicken or beef and cellophane noodles, finished with a soy-based sauce.

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