Korean food it seems is all of a sudden…blowing up. I’m pleased to inform you that I have been eating Korean food since I was seven. From age six through ten I attended Wonderland Ave. Elementary School in Laurel Canyon where more than half the seven-year-olds were Korean. And lucky for me, their families were extremely proud of their traditions, especially the culinary ones. While most of the former rock star and move star parents of the canyon (remember that band Ratt? The guitarist’s son was in my second grade class) brought vegan cupcakes (before it was a THING), the Korean parents would bring barbecue. They came fully equipped with bulgogi, kimchi (which they made mild for our tender young palates), japchae, kimbap and plastic tubs of fluffy white rice. They even brought their own grills!
I couldn’t get enough of it. I befriended a girl who lived in far away Korea town whose mother was so thrilled that I liked the food that she sent me home form a playdate with a giant Tupperware full of marinated bulgoki.
I’m now privileged to work just a few blocks away from New York’s Korea town and there is always a jar of Kimchi in my fridge. Like most midtown-lunchers in this city, I’m a fan of Korean-Mexican fusion food. I’ve made Korean Tacos (click here fore the recipe) again and again.
One of the best distinctly Korean dishes is Jap Chae (sometimes spelled Chap Chae) or glass noodles. Korean glass noodles are different from Japanese or Thai noodles because they are made from sweet potato flower. The noodles usually have a purple tinge when dry. They can be a bit hard to find, but I know that the Korean grocery store Han Ah Reum on 32nd St. between Broadway and 5th ave has them. Remember, these are not the normal glass noodles made with rice, they need to be made with sweet potato flour.
Japchae -Korean Glass Noodles
You will need:
2 servings Korean sweet potato noodles
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 bunch fresh spinach (about 12 cups of leaves raw)
10-15 dried shitake mushrooms
2 scallion (green onion) stalks
1 small yellow onion
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1. Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package or bring 5 cups of water in a medium saucepan and cook the noodles for about 5 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside. The noodles will be very sticky, so splash some sesame oil on them while they cool. Reserve about 1 cup of the boiling water and soak the shitake mushrooms in a small bowl until they are reconstituted. Slice into thin strips and set aside.
2. Make the sauce by whisking the sugar, soy sauce and 1/2 Tablespoon of sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside to let the flavors develop.
3. Chop the onion, scallions and spinach (use leaves and stalk) into site sized pieces. Heat the remaining sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet. Cook the onion first on its own for 3 minutes and then add the spinach and scallions with a splash of water to steam the thick stalks. Cook for an additional 2 minutes with the shitake mushrooms. You may need to add more water to avoid burning the vegetables.
4. Add the noodles to the pan with the reserved soy and sugar mixture and toss off the heat to combine. Serve with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.