RECIPE: Korean Japchae (Vegetarian Version)


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.



RECIPE: KIMCHI JJIGAE (Kimchi Soup with pork)


Korean Food Wave Revisited: Two weeks ago on the Thanksgiving long weekend, I went “work-clothes shopping” with my friend “Mui Mui”, a fairly level-headed “youngster” who recently got a new job and need a little assistance with wardrobe selections.

She can only have soup or congee (braces!!); we popped into H-Mart food court (on Robson Street) for a casual dinner (shopping is just about the only time I’m willing to forgo a proper “sit down” meal, taste is important still); it was great to revisit Wang Ga Ma food stand, where I had one of my all time favourite Korean dish, Kimchi jjigae. It was absolutely delicious, just “hit the spot”, perfect dinner on a rainy Friday night.

I like Jjigae for its simplicity and heartiness, it is what it is. Unlike SoonDuBu (Tofu soup), this dish is not readily available anywhere. Whenever I have a sudden craving, I must make my own at home. It’s my “go-to” dish during the gloomy Vancouver winter months.

The taste brought back many fond memories, the years (since 2005) of my absolute fascination with my third “adopted” culture (behind Japanese/French)…Korean language classes (at SFU Continuing Education)…My three trips to Seoul, especially travelling with my language class schoolmates (who remained in touch as good friends until this day)…dinner outings to different establishments with our wonderful teacher Anne…Korean cooking classes…

Upon returning home, I “dug out” an old cookbook – “Korean cooking” by Han Chung Hae; In 2005 and 2007, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunities (yes twice!) to attend her cooking school while I travelled to Seoul for leisure! I’ve learnt some interesting basic dishes – kimchi jjigae (by special request), Japchae, Bulgoogi (secret marinade), seafood pancake, just to name a few!  The cookbook and a few copies of recipes written in Korean (yay have not forgotten everything entirely!) are prized souvenirs, I treasured most the experiences and friendships, they will always remain very dear to my heart.


Last night on the way home we made a quick stop at T & T (Asian supermarket) to pick up the pork and konnyaku (kimchi is always in our fridge!)…Here you go!

잘 먹겠습니다

!!! (OO)


2 cups (packed) kimchi (readily available at most supermarkets, chopped in bite size), 150 grams organic pork shoulder (thinly sliced or bite size, trim excess fat), 1 small onion (thinly sliced), 3 teaspoons grated ginger, 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (can always add a little more),  1/2 cup kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi), 2 to 2 1/2 cups of anchovy stock (*similar to Japanese dashi made of dried kelp and dry anchovies boiled in water), 2-3 teaspoons of gochujang (Korean chili paste), 150 grams konnyaku, 2 scallions (thinly sliced for garnish), 2 teaspoon grapeseed oil, 1-2 teaspoon of soy sauce (preferably Korean, Japanese soy will work also) for marinade and season to taste; 2 teaspoon Japanese sake (rice wine).

*You can use water if you do not have any stock handy, the anchovy stock adds more depth and flavour to the soup.  I always have Japanese dashi stock (kelp/bonito) ready at home and it works just as well.

It’s my personal preference to use mostly organic products, the pork shoulder (it’s less fatty) and konnyaku (a Japanese zero calorie product made of plant from taro family) instead of the usual tofu (OO).  For other versions, skip the meat and add other vegetables for vegetarian, or use canned tuna for chamchi jjigae.


– Slice onions, grate ginger, mince garlic and chop scallions, set aside.

– Trim excess fat off pork shoulder, slice thinly or bite size; marinade with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon rice wine, 1 teaspoon of Korean chilli paste (gochujang), 1 teaspoon grated ginger and a smidgen of garlic at least for 30 minutes.

– Prepare the kimchi juice: Remove 2 cups (fully packed) kimchi from jar, squeezed hard into a bowl to obtain “juice” (approximately 1/2 cup), set aside.

– Bring a small pot of water to boil, add the whole block of konnyaku to parboil for approximately 10 minutes.  This will get rid of the “smell”,  slice konnyaku into 1/2 inch thick.

– Using medium high heat, heat a hot-pot (nabe – remember to follow instructions if you using one) or 5 quart heavy bottom stock pot, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil, when hot add the pork slices.  Saute for approximately 2 to 3 minutes (do not cook pork entirely) and allow the fat to render.  Remove pork from pot.

– Using the same pot (add a little more oil only if necessary) over medium high heat, add the onions, saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent, add remaining ginger and garlic and 1 teaspoon of gochujang, saute until the mixture is very fragrant.  Add the kimchi juice and a splash of Japanese sake to “deglaze” (you will hear it sizzling) and scrape off the little brown bits (don’t burn) from the bottom.

– Add kimchi, konnyaku and soup stock (or water) to the pot, stirring everything together to combine.

– Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochujang (Korean chilli paste) if you want to increase the spiciness, season to taste with soy only if necessary.

– Turn the heat down to a low simmer and let the soup cook for at least 15 minutes. Let the flavours develop further.

– Return the half-cooked pork slices to the mixture, cook until meat is tender.

– Add the scallions and quickly stir to incorporate.  Turn off and remove from heat, serve immediately straight out of the pot with rice.  Enjoy!