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: Mushroom Soba Salad with Yuzu Ponzu Dressing

Mushroom Soba Salad with Ponzu Dressing

This is my friend’s own recipe, inspired by the different types of soba salads she has had; this light and tasty salad has become a staple on my menu.  I also made this for our New Year family gathering, and most recently for my friend’s birthday potluck party.

We made this dish together a few months ago when sea asparagus was in season; it was an excellent addition and added a different texture and taste (“sea-salt”) . As this is a homemade recipe, the quantities and ingredients can be changed according to your taste and dietary needs.

“Poached Pear Queen”, thank you very much for sharing (OO).

Ingredients: (Serves 4 – as light meal)

1 package 100% buckwheat noodles (200g), 1 Tablespoon grape seed oil, 6 to 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms (thinly sliced), 1 package white organic shimeji mushrooms (approx. 100g), 1 package organic buna shimeji (beech) mushrooms (approx. 100g), 1 to 2 cloves of garlic (finely minced), sugar snap peas 250 g (lightly blanched and sliced on the bias), 1 large red (or orange) pepper (thinly sliced), 2 pieces satsuma age (Japanese already cooked fried fish cake) thinly sliced, 1 medium onion (thinly sliced), green scallions (chopped for garnish), 1 Meyer (or regular) lemon zest (for garnish), 1 to 2 teaspoons of Japanese mirin, juice of half a Meyer lemon (or regular lemon), sake (just a dash for mushrooms), kosher salt (a little for seasoning mushrooms), drizzle of sesame oil (optional).

Dressing: 4 to 6 Tablespoon yuzu ponzu sauce, 1 to 2 Tablespoon Japanese soy sauce, 1 small red chilli peppers (thinly sliced), 1 to 2 Tablespoon rice vinegar, black pepper for seasoning to taste.


– Prepare ponzu dressing (Yuzu ponzu to soy sauce – 3 to 1), add sliced red chilli pepper and mix well.

– Lightly blanched sugar snap peas, peel and slice on the bias.

– Separate the white and beech shimeji mushrooms into individual stalks, slice shiitake mushrooms, onion, red pepper and fish cakes, set aside.

– In large saute pan, heat oil over medium high heat.

– Add onions, sautéed until lightly browned, add mushrooms, garlic, Japanese sake, mirin and season with kosher salt (a pinch to lightly season the mushrooms) and black pepper, stirring occasionally until they begin to wilt, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.

– Add red pepper slices, cook for another minute, then fold in snap peas and fish cake, add Meyer lemon juice, mix well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Keep in mind you would like to keep the vegetables “crunchy”. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

– Cook the Soba noodles in boiling water according to package instructions;  cook until they are al dente (treat it as pasta). This step requires your full attention as soba noodles can be overcooked easily.  When they are done, rinse under cold water (until water is no longer murky), toss and drain the noodles thoroughly.

Soba noodles rinsed, tossed and drained thoroughly.

– In large mixing bowl, (by hand using plastic disposable food prep gloves or tongs) toss mushroom mixture with soba noodles, the lemon zest and green scallions, slowly drizzle dressing and toss well with all ingredients.

– Taste and adjust with your choice of seasonings (soy sauce, yuzu ponzu, black pepper) according to your own preference.

– Lightly drizzle with sesame oil or garnish with toasted sesame seeds (optional).- Served immediately or chill until ready to serve.


– Meyer lemon has a very distinctive flavour which is slightly resembles yuzu.  It is not as sharp as regular lemons which work just as well and adds a different flavour.

– When adding the dressing, do it slowly; some of you may prefer a even lighter or heavier dressed noodle salad, you may not use all (or you require more) dressing. Be prepared!  If you choose to chill the salad before serving, it’s best to have more dressing available as noodles may become a little dry after refrigeration.

– The small red chilli pepper is spicy; so beware! if you want “kick”, add another one (OO).

– You can make this entirely vegetarian by omitting the fish cakes.  Back in September 2013, we made this dish with sea asparagus, maitake and crimini mushrooms, be adventurous and change the ingredients!

– Here’s a picture of some ingredients: organic soy sauce (top left), Yuzu Ponzu (top right) and 100% buckwheat noodles (bottom).  In Vancouver, you can purchased all ingredients at Fujiya Japanese food store (912 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC).  The organic packaged mushrooms are also available at T & T Asian supermarket (various locations).