I once got food poisoning from a Korean dish. Granted, it was a Korean dish made at a Spanish restaurant, but I still grappled with the idea of making Korean food. What if it tasted the same? Would all my work be for naught because I couldn't eat it? Would I barf all over Greg?
Fear not, friends. Japchae, while following the standard oil-and-sugar format of Korean foods, did not set me off. Rather, it was delicious! Japchae is not a National Dish of Korea, but does have a delightful history, as according to Wikipedia.com:
"Japchae was first made in the early 17th century, when the Joseon Dynasty was reigning in the Korean peninsula. When King Gwanghaegun hosted a big party at his palace, one of his lieges, Yi Chung, created this dish to please the king’s palate. The king liked this dish so much that he rewarded his liege by promoting him to the position of hojo panseo (hangul: 호조판서, hanja: 戶曹判書, equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury)."
This recipe lends itself really well to change. Add more vegetables, add more meat, more spices...it's all good. And it's all very tasty.
Japchae (from The Seattle Times)
-6 ounces dangmyeon noodles (**NOTE: These are easily found in Asian grocery stores, and are very cheap. And they're HUGE. The easiest way to find them will be to check the ingredients for "Sweet Potato Starch").
-1/2 bunch (about 4 ounces) spinach, rinsed and trimmed
-2 cloves garlic, minced and divded
-1 tablespoon, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
-6 ounces beef rib-eye, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick strips
-3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce, divided
-1/4 medium onion, sliced
-3 to 4 shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced (**NOTE: I used an entire package of dried "exotic" mushrooms that I rehydrated. This was fantastic, even though there were far more than 3-4 mushrooms).
-1 carrot, shredded or cut into thin strips
-3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
-2 tablespoons sugar
-Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
-Optional: I added about 1 cup fresh snow peas, and 1 small red pepper, sliced. This was awesome and I highly recommend it. Also optional: When the veggies were cooking, I added a healthy splash of rice vinegar, and a touch more soy sauce and sesame oil.
1. Cook the sweet potato noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to the package directions, about 4-6 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Be sure not to overcook the noodles, or they will lose their chewy texture! If you like, you can cut these very long noodles with scissors into 6-7" lengths for easier eating.
2. Blanch the spinach in boiling water. Rinse immediately under cold water, squeeze the water from the leaves and form into a ball. Cut the ball in half. Combine the spinach, half the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, and the salt in a small bowl. Set aside to let the flavors soak in.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Stir-fry until the beef is cooked, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the remaining garlic and transfer to a plate.
4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the onion, mushroom, and carrots (and other veggies, if you choose) and cook until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the green onions and stir-fry for another minute. Remove from heat.
5. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients, plus 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and sugar. Serve warm, sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Calories: Unknown. Wouldn't necessarily be bad for you, were it not for an undoubtedly high sodium level, and all the oil and sugar. Darn.