RECIPE: Korean Japchae (Vegetarian Version)

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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.

Preparation:

– 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: Faux-Omurice (Japanese Omelet Rice “Omurice” -)

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You must wonder what’s with the faux “Omurice” and Tomato Caramelized Onion “Jam-chup” (see other posting)?

Last month’s cauliflower “fried rice” was a food “jackpot”; I decided to continue to run with the idea and see what other variations I can come up with…

Over a dinner gathering with friends, we were talking about childhood comfort foods and our favours we love..my hubby Andy mentioned “Omelet Rice”….and voila!

I must give him full credit for coming up with this idea; It’s not a surprise at all as the Japanese “yoshoku” omelet is one of his all time favourite comfort foods! As an adult his tastes may have evolved in many ways but some things just never change – wonderful food memories and tastes just stay with us forever, we all have our own short list of “go-to” comfort foods.

As for the choice of vegetables: I picked carrots, corn and zucchini for their crunchy texture!  Although we are treating the cauliflower as “fried rice”, overall the texture is still a bit soft, it needs the “crunch” to add textural interest. The onions adds a sweet flavour and the Canadian back bacon lends a subtle smoky flavor, it is also leaner and I added just enough to satisfy a meat lover’s (like my husband) craving.

Canadian back bacon is also one of Andy’s favourites; this dish actually celebrates who he is, and pays homage to both his Japanese and Canadian roots.

The Tomato caramelized onion jam “jam-chup” (Andy calls it as it’s a replacement for ketchup, just a play on words) is a very lucky find (Serious Eats), I’m so happy and proud that I “tweaked” the original recipe and made it work for my dish.

You may wonder how I came up with this Deconstructed version in a bowl? Aesthetically this works beautifully; it’s practical and easy to serve. The cauliflower “rice” is actually quite filling and since it’s in small bits, you need to put a lot to “stuff’ the omelet to make it “full”, I think the serving will become too big.

Besides…It’s time for me to practice flipping omelets!! Enjoy (OO)

Ingredients: (serves 2-4)

1 small head of organic cauliflower, 3-4 teaspoons grapeseed oil, 1 medium yellow onion (finely diced), 1 large carrot (peeled and finely diced), 2 ears of fresh corn (husked and kernels removed), 1 large zucchini (finely diced), 2 slices of Canadian back bacon (diced), organic eggs (1 for each serving), unsweetened almond milk (1 Tablespoon for each portion), 2 Tablespoons of stock (I’ve used homemade Japanese dashi stock, you can substitute with chicken broth or vegetable broth), organic Japanese soy sauce (season to taste), sea salt and ground black pepper, chives for garnish (optional).

**For a vegetarian version – omit the Canadian bacon, substitute the Japanese dashi stock (from kelp and bonito flakes) vegetable broth.  I find the dashi adds a very nice flavor to this dish.

Preparation:

– Clean the cauliflower,core and trim the florets off the stems, cut off any blemishes (sometimes there are brown spots!).  Process florets in the food processor until they resemble the texture and size of rice grains.

– Chop the onion finely, dice carrot and zucchini finely, husked and removed corn kernels, set aside.

– Slice and dice the Canadian back bacon into small bits separately, set aside.

– In a large pot (I used a 5 quart pot with lid) or wok/saute pan, using high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of grape seed oil; add 1/2 the diced onion and cook until they become soft and translucent.  Add carrots, saute for 2 minutes; add corn and saute for another 2 minutes; add zucchini and 1 Tablespoon of dashi stock (you will hear a “sizzling” sound), saute and mix the vegetables well (takes approximately 2-3 minutes).  The entire process takes less than 10 minutes; vegetables should be cooked yet crunchy in texture.  Remove from pan and set aside.

– Using the same pot, adjust to medium low heat, add another teaspoon of oil, add the remaining diced onion, again cook until they become soft and translucent.  Add cauliflower, stirring gently for 5 minutes until the oil is evenly distributed and each “grain” is coated.

– Add 1 Tablespoon of dashi stock, put the lid on, adjust to low heat (to avoid burning) and “steam” the cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes.  If you like it softer, cook a little longer.

– Remove the lid, readjust to medium high heat, add Canadian back bacon bits, saute for 2 minutes; return carrot/corn/zucchini mixture to pot. Using spatula, gently fold and stir fry ingredients until mixture is slightly browned, taste and season with soy sauce and black ground pepper, Turn off heat and set cooked mixture aside.

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Filling ready to go!

– Whisk the egg, add a pinch of sea salt and almond milk (1 Tablespoon to 1 egg) together in small bowl, you are preparing each portion individually.

– Lightly greased a small frying pan (I’ve used an 8 inch), coat the surface with a thin coat of grape seed oil.

– Heat the pan over medium high heat, when pan gets hot, pour the egg mixture and tilt to cover the pan evenly; once the egg has set, turn off and remove from heat.

– Gently remove “omelet” from frying pan and lay in a round bowl (find one that fits the omelet perfectly!), ladle the filling on top of “omelet”. (At this time you can decide whether you would like to make this version or a real omelet**).

– Garnish with chives (optional) and serve immediately with tomato caramelized onion jam “jam-up” (see separate recipe).

Notes:

Namiko Chen’s website “Just One Cookbook” has an excellent “traditional” Japanese Omelet Rice Recipe with very clear instructions and excellent demonstration on how to assemble the omelet.

http://www.justonecookbook.com/recipes/omurice-japanese-omelette-rice/

– I always try to keep oil usage to minimum; you can always add a little more to adjust.

– In a regular omelet rice recipe, ketchup is added to rice directly.  It’s my humble opinion that it will not work and make the cauliflower soggy and taste funny, besides we don’t use ketchup much these days and decided to look for a healthier option.

– This is an anything goes recipe; You can choose whatever vegetables you have or to your liking to substitute the corn, zucchini or carrots. I chose them because they add a crunchy texture. Feel free to use chicken (in regular recipe) instead of back bacon. Be creative!

– To all Moms: this may be a great option to encourage (or “fool”) your kids into eating more vegetables (OO). It makes a great bento box lunch and a wonderful one-dish dinner.

– I choose Canadian back bacon as it is leaner. If you are using regular bacon, render the fat and use it to saute the vegetables to add more flavor.  As bacon is salty, adjust the seasoning as required.

– As always, remember to taste and season according to your liking and dietary needs!

 

“Lazy” Phnom Penh Dry Noodle

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“Phnom Penh” is one of our favourite Vancouver eateries; my friend “PPQ” came up with this “lazy” version (without soup) and recently I have fine tuned this easy recipe. The ingredients are simple and easy to prepare, it is also fun to prepare this for a “buffet” or potluck party, all you have to do is prepare the toppings and everyone can assemble their own noodle dish and spark an interesting dinner conversation! Enjoy (OO).

Ingredients: (Serves 2 – 4 as light meal/appetizer)

1 package of fresh Chinese rice noodle “Cheong Fun” roll (650g, with scallions and dried shrimp) (available at most Asian supermarkets),  Tiger prawns (approximately 3-4 each person for each serving, shelled, deveined, boiled), lean pasture raised ground pork (250g), fish sauce (for seasoning the pork), cilantro, fresh lime, 1 package of bean sprouts, green scallions (chopped), fried garlic and fried onion (you can make your own or purchase prepackaged product from Thailand), fresh Thai chilies (seeded and finely chopped, optional), Chinese “Tianjin” preserved cabbage (small handful)

For the sauce:  Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce, low sodium chicken stock, dark soy sauce (1-1-1 ratio)

Other condiments: Store bought Sambal Olek Chilli Sauce, chopped Thai chillies mixed with white vinegar (optional), Homemade prawn oil (optional)

Preparation:

–  Cut the rice roll into bite size (approximately 1 inch lengthwise); then slice through the middle to make them thinner; sprinkle with cold water and reheat in rice cooker (leave them in rice cooker under  “keep warm” mode”).

– To prepare the sauce: mix all ingredients and bring to boil, adjust sweetness and saltiness according to your liking

– Instead of oil, add a little water to skillet and saute the ground pork in high heat, add a little fish sauce for seasoning, set aside

– To prepare the prawns: shelled and deveined (with tail intact), add water to medium size pot (enough to cover the prawns), add a slice of lemon and a few black peppercorn and bring liquid to a boil; add prawns and cook until just opaque throughout. Have an “ice” bath ready; when prawns are cooked, pour the prawns into strainer and “shock” in ice bath immediately to stop the cooking process.  Strained and set aside.

– Parboil the bean sprouts quickly, strain and set aside.

– Prepare the preserved cabbage – soaked in cold water for at least 15 to 20 minutes, squeezed dry and chopped finely; chop green scallions, cilantro, slice the limes.

– To serve, Place each ingredient in individual serving bowls, prepare a condiment tray and set up the self-serve noodle bar.  Enjoy!

Notes:

You can adjust the meat/vegetable quantity and taste according to your taste and dietary needs.  Steamed pork belly slices are also good addition to this dish.

Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce – the brand which I’ve used is called “ABC”, it’s available at T & T Supermarket.  When making the sauce, I diluted the sweet soy sauce with low sodium chicken broth to lessen the sweetness.

I used the prawn shells and prepared my own oil (It’s simple and easy to prepare).