Thursday, July 3, 2008

JapChae: stir-fried vermicelli noodle with vegetables

I got three different kinds of summer squash from Nancy at the Chesapeake's choice farm stand, and am also harvesting my volunteer squash. I would like to share some of the recipes for these yummy, young squashes. The first in the summer squash series is a stir-fried noodle. It is a variation of JapChae, one of the most popular and well-known Korean dishes. There are some ingredients that might be new to you:
  • DangMyun: Vermicelli noodle. This one is made of 100% sweet potato starch, so it belongs to the cellophane noodle family. Cook the noodle in boiling water till tender about 10 min. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  • Dried Tree Ear Mushroom: This mushroom has a chewy texture with a rather bland flavor. They do look like ears once reconstituted in water.
  • Dried Shitake Mushroom: Very unique taste. Sometimes you can find them even fresh in a grocery-store. Any Asian grocery store will carry dried shitake mushroom. Two to three mushroom caps in water for 15 minutes.
You could use any noodle of your choice, and any combination of mushroom. In traditional JapChae, we use cooked beef (marinated in Bulgogi style, I am sure I will post about Bulgogi at some point) but I skipped it this time. For me, standard JapChae also has to have cooked spinach but I skipped this ingredient too. Instead, here are my line-ups:
  • Yellow Squash: from Nancy's farm stand. Julienned, sauteed with Shallot.
  • Cucumber: from Chris' Jubilee Organic farm. Julienned, sauteed just to take some water out.
  • Carrot:from Common Market. Julienned, sauteed with spring onion from Catoctin Mountain Orchard.
  • Eggs: made in crepe style then cut.
  • Poblano pepper: from my garden. Also julienned and sauteed.
Modern JapChae often features sweet peppers such as green pepper and/or red peppers. Basically if you are not worried about making "traditional" JapChae, pretty much any vegetable that can be stir-fried will do. You julienned them, saute them, and make sure season with salt and pepper for each item.

Now in a big stock pot or your paella pan or anything that is big enough to hold all the ingredients, put a little bit of veg oil, a little bit of sesame oil (Chinese/Korean/Japanese brand will do. Dark sesame oil, not the refined type), garlic, soy sauce and sugar. I don't know why but we make this noodle a little bit sweet. I tend to use a lot less sugar than other people, but it is really up to your preference. I add a bit of fish sauce, probably not very traditional but I do it anyway.
Cook the sauce and garlic a little bit, then on the low heat, introduce the cooked noodle to the pot, coat the noodle with the sauce. I don't measure when I cook Korean food because I adjust till I get what I am looking for. Just to give you a rough idea, I think I used about
  • 4 cups of cooked vermicelli
  • 2 TBS of soy sauce
  • 1 TBS of fish sauce
  • 1 TBS of dark sesame oil
  • 1 TBS of vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1 TBS of sugar
Start with this measurements, and taste the noodle, add more stuff as needed. Season with salt and/or pepper. When noodle tastes good, add all the cooked vegetables and mix.

Decorated with egg and poblano pepper strips, this one is ready for me to eat! Sweet and tender yellow squash, crispy cucumber, yummy shitake with all the fixings built-in, this is a perfect one-pot meal for summer night.


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