Oh man, the special food that reminds you of being a kid! For me, it’s many things Korean. I have no Korean family to teach me the food I ate for a year as a child living in Seoul (and I’m a veghead) so I’ve been rediscovering this food through cooking and trying out vegetarian substitutions. Well of course, nothing beats eating in a Korean restaurant, but we don’t go out to eat that often. Ha, I know that sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself, but after this lunch I can tell you, oh no I am not!
Bonus points to those who can see that I used the wrong noodles in this dish. They are not Daang Myun noodles (당면), also known as glass noodles, as I haven’t been to the Korean market for a while. I used rice sticks as a substitute. Very different texture but still tasted amazing. I recommend picking up some packets of Daang Myun when you have the chance. They won’t go anywhere and are a great pantry filler. Also of course, invest in good dark soy sauce and premium sesame oil. These are things to buy in bulk!
Jap Chae or Chop Chae is traditionally made with beef strips and I chose to use the meaty portabello mushroom as a veggie substitute. For the meat lovers out there, here is a video of the traditional preparation. Everyone else (including you lovely vegans and gluten free peoples), carry on reading!
Serves 2-3 people as a side dish
2 or 3 bunches of daang myun noodles (or one packet of rice sticks)
1 small bunch of spinach or kale
2 portabello mushrooms, sliced into hearty strips
handful of dried or frozen shitake mushrooms*
4-6 spring onion or green onion, washed and cut in thirds or fourths
1 white onion, cut into chunks
1 carrot, juliened
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
good quality sesame oil
about 1-2 tbs sugar
toasted sesame seeds
fresh ground pepper
*If using dried shitake mushrooms, soak them until soft beforehand
1) If you have the daang myun or glass noodles, boil them for a couple minutes until soft and chewy. Taste one to see. Then drain but do not rinse.
If using rice sticks as I had to, follow the instructions to soak them until soft. Then drain.
Whichever noodles you use, when they have been drained, set in a large bowl and mix with 1 tbs soy sauce and 1 tbs sesame oil so they do not stick together. When they have cooled a little, take some clean scissors and roughly cut them into longish pieces.
2) If using kale as I did, cut out the thick stem before cooking. Simmer the spinach or kale for 1 minute in some boiling water. Rinse the kale under cold water and then squeeze all the water out. Chop roughly and season with a little soy sauce and sesame oil. Add the greens to the big bowl of noodles.
3) In a large wok, heat up a little olive oil and fry the julienned carrot for a minute. It should still be firm, but not crispy. Add to the large bowl.
4) Next flash fry the green onion on a high heat. For less than a minute. Add it to the bowl.
5) Do the same with the chopped onion.
6) Next the mushrooms and garlic. The mushrooms will act as a kind of seasoned meat-like item in this dish. Heat up a little more olive oil in the wok, then add the garlic, portabellos and shitakes. The heat can stay fairly high. Cook for a minute and then add 1 or 2 tbs of soy sauce, 1 or 2 tbs of sesame oil and a tsp of sugar. Mix and taste a mushroom. It should be pretty yummy, but if not, add a little more sugar and maybe a little more soy. Cook another minute or two till some of the mushroom liquid has been absorbed and the garlic is completely cooked. The mushrooms should be pretty magnificent. Then add the mushrooms and garlic to the bowl.
7) Pour over the large bowl of noodles and veggies about 1 tbs of soy sauce, 1 tbs of sesame oil, a few grinds of black pepper and 1 or 2 tsp of sugar. Make sure your hands are very clean and then mix all together thoroughly. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. In the end I used about 2 tbs of soy and sesame and 2 tsp of sugar.
Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds all over. Serve with rice and kim chi or on its own.