Cooking requires tremendous focus and patience; some dishes require more patience than others to prepare and japchae is definitely one of them. The most time-consuming part is the food preparation and final assembly.
Preparing this dish certainly presents a perfect opportunity to work on your own knife skills; all ingredients must be cut finely, cook and seasoned separately, and in the end mix together by hand.
Yes you heard it right, it is by hand and this is exactly what I’ve learnt at the Korean cooking school in Seoul back in 2007. The final assembly requires the cook to mix, taste and adjust seasoning at the same time. The dish is not supposed to be oily, too sweet or heavily “doused” with sesame oil.
Most of the traditional recipes consist of shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots (cut into matchstick strips), cucumber peel (skin only finely sliced), egg, scallions and sometimes beef, garnish with sesame seeds and slivers of chilli. Seasonal vegetables are added and the colours are chosen very carefully to make the dish pleasing to the eye.
My vegetarian version uses less noodles, three different kinds of mushrooms, red pepper, green pepper (Thanks Sofei for your own organic produce), yellow onion and green scallions.
So what is your combination then? (OO)
Ingredients: (Serves 2 to 4)
4 ounces of korean sweet potato noodle (dangmyeon), 1 large Portobello mushroom (gills removed, thinly sliced), 1 package of white shimeji mushrooms (ends cut off, separate each stem), 10 dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated, thinly sliced), 2 garlic cloves (finely minced), 1/2 red bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1/2 green bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1 small yellow onion (thinly sliced), 1 egg (egg yolk only), 1 to 2 green onions (cut crosswise into 1 inch long pieces), grapeseed oil, roasted white sesame seeds, organic Japanese (or Korean) soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, maple syrup, fresh ground black pepper for season to taste.
**Note: quantity of oil used is provided below, keep in mind it’s not supposed to be greasy! As for the sweetener, as I do not use refined sugar at home, maple syrup is my preference. As it has a different flavour, please use sparingly or you can substitute with brown sugar. You can always adjust the quantity of vegetables used according to your own preference.
– In large bowl filled with hot boiling water, completely submerge sweet potato noodles, cover and soak until they soften; stir a little to keep them from sticking together, drain thoroughly. This process takes less than 10 minutes, do not over soaked the noodles as they must remain firm and chewy. The noodles are quite long; using scissors cut them a few times, set aside.
– In small frying pan, add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, swirl it around and wipe off the excess with paper towel (not over the stove!) so you can see a very thin layer of oil on the pan. Return pan to heat, add beaten egg yolk mixture into the pan. Tilt it around so it spreads thinly, let it cook using residual heat in the pan for 1 minutes, then flip it over and cook for another minute. Let it cook and slice into thin strips.
– Using a skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil over medium high heat, add onions and scallions and pinch of kosher salt. Saute until onions become translucent, it takes approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
– Using the same skillet, heat another teaspoon of grapeseed oil, add red pepper strips and saute for 30 seconds, then add green pepper strips, mix well and saute for another minute, remove from skillet and set aside. The pepper strips should remain crunchy.
– Using medium high heat, heat the same skillet with another 1 to 2 teaspoons (mushrooms absorb oil) grapeseed oil, add Portobello, shiitake and shimeji mushroom mixture, add minced garlic, saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are softened and lightly browned (You will also hear a squeaky sound when cooking the mushroom). Remove from skillet and set aside.
– In a big mixing bowl, prepare the seasoning mix: add 1 to 2 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and fresh ground pepper (a couple of grinds). Add all the ingredients to bowl and mix together by hand (please wear disposable gloves). Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
– Add the egg strips and toasted sesame seeds, mix all ingredients thoroughly; garnish with more scallions if desired. Transfer to plate and serve.