Jap-Che // 잡채

My mom was notorious for her jap-che. If there was a dining gathering, my mom’s jap-che was there. She had an uncanny ability to season this dish to suit everyone’s palate which is not an easy feat when feeding a big number of koreans. Growing up, I always stood next to her as she prepared each vegetable, so I can steal a pinchful of this and that. I loved it when she would take a pinchful of freshly cooked noodles and asked me to taste. Mmm~

Looking at it, I always assumed it’d be time consuming and difficult to make it for myself. Until recently. I realized this is a perfect dish to make when you want to use up all the ‘left over’ ingredients in your fridge. For this particular dish, I subsituted beef with chicken meatballs and instead of carrots, I used 1/2 red peppers.

Ingredients:

1/2 pack of Vermicelli (sometimes labeled ‘oriental styled’) Noodles

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 onion

1 cup of mushrooms (shitake is preferred; substituted portobello mushrooms)

3 -4 cups of spinach

cutlets of beef (substituted chopped chicken teriyaki meatballs)

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1 Tb of sesame oil

1 tbs of sesame seeds

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1. Put noodles in boiling water and cook as directed on package. When properly cooked, noodles will be transparent & chewy, but firm.

2. Rince with cold water and drain. Set aside.

3. Slice vegetables and stir fry. Add spinach to the mix.

4. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

5. Mix the noodles with the vegetables. Season with soysauce, sugar, sasame oil and ground black pepper. Gently incorporate vegetables into the noodles.

6. Sprinkle sesame seeds and serve.

Korean Inspired…

There is a new restaurant in town serving French – Korean inspired food. This is a second restaurant by the owner and I’ve tried her first restaurant. I was so disappointed by the food – so much that I was hesitant to try this place. But, we went anyway.

We ordered three dishes:

Pork belly, kimchi, bean sprout pancake (left)

Short rib, shallot, scallion Dumpling (right)

And… Short rib, sambal daikon, mustard green rice bowl.

Everything tasted okay. Having eaten Korean food all of my life, I suppose I have high standards. The pancake was a saltier version of what was really a Bin-Dae-Dduk. Dumplings were way too salty and greasy which aren’t at all how Mandoos are. Korean mandoos taste very clean void of oil unless you fry them. The wraps were stuck together, eventually ripping off as we grabbed them for a bite. The grease from inside the dumpling pooled all over the dish, coating each dumpling adding to the heaviness that was already present by too-thick of a wrapping. They did add scallions to probably counter the grease, but it wasn’t enough.

Disappointing thus far…

The rice bowl was what saved the meal for me.

The meat was cooked to perfection which redeemed the disappointments so far. This dish was a twist on the traditional Bibimbap as they substituted vegetables with just lettuce and daikons (what is a poor man’s food to me) and added a soy sauce cured raw yolk.

That was a pleasant surprise as I actually had this version back in Korea in my childhood days. My eemo housed college students in the 80s. We would spend a few days during our summer breaks and one day, one of the students came out with a bowl of rice mixed in soy sauce and yolk. He gave my brother and I a bite and asked if we wanted some for ourselves. I don’t think it was a common dish to eat as my cousins didn’t react too excitedly about us eating it.

Despite my disappointment, it was a packed house and the fact that people are trying Korean food comforted me a bit.

At least, I’m inspired to make some BinDaeDduk at home which I’ll post soon.

– J

Dduk-Bok-Gi // 떡볶이 // Spicy Rice Cakes

spicy rice cakes (dduk-bok-gi/떡볶이) are ubiquitous in korea. it is one of the most beloved snacks and you can find them everywhere. they even have a street in sin-sa-dong dedicated to it called ‘the street of dduk-bok-gi’.

dduk-bok-gi is one of my favorite dishes and its tied to so many of my childhood memories. i remember for my 7th birthday, my mom and her friends made a huge batch for me and my 20 of my friends. i remember looking forward to the trips to the market, because my brother and i will be guaranteed a dish of it at the small stall in front of the market entrance. they served it in a round, green plastic dish and you ate it with a toothpick. sadly, i learned they no longer serve it like that on my last trip back. it was half the fun. i remember rinsing the dduk (rice cake) in water for him, because it was so spicy he had a hard time with it. i remember squatting in the middle of the street with my mom on a random shopping trip to dong-dae-moon where a lady sat on a bucket and made the reddest, hottest and meanest giant dduk-bok-gi ever.

you can say it is my comfort food – as easily as i reach for a bowl of mac & cheese or a loaf of bread, i whip it up to serve my mid-night cravings. it’s a perfect mixture of spicy, sweet & chewy.

ingredients:

water (or broth for extra flavor)
dduk (rick cakes)
mandoo (dumplings)
japchae gim-mal-ee (fried seaweed noodle rolls) : optional (a must for me)
odeng (fish cakes)
1 carrot
1/4 onion
1 green onion
goh-choo-jang (red pepper paste)
sugar
sesame oil (optional)
sesame seeds (for garnish)

1. if your rice cakes are frozen, put them in a bowl of room temperature water for 10-15 minutes.

2. if your dumplings & seaweed rolls are frozen, fry them until golden brown. set aside.

3. cut carrot, onion and green onion. heat oil on a pan and stir fry carrot & onion until cooked.

4. add 2 cups of water and mix in red pepper paste and sugar. Mix.

5. add rice cake and fish cake. put on low heat until the sauce thickens.

6. add dumplings & seaweed rolls. mix.

7. add green onions.

8. garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

 

welcome

when you travel and really want to know the culture and its people, you have to try their food. authentic and homemade food. at least food from a restaurant that locals go to. it says so much. it’s people, history and culture laid out for you in a dish for you to get to know.
i always had food in my mouth growing up. i never really cared about howthe food was made. my mom made certain it was always available. food represented home. it represented my mom and her devotion to her kids. it represented my dad’s hard work to provide. it represented my grandmother, meals gathered during the holidays and tradition.
on my first year in college, i subsisted on pasta, pizza and fries. it was not fun and i looked forward to visits home so much. mom’s home cooked korean meals. i started watching my mom as she cooked and learn by trial and error. i am not a patient person – in a way that i never ever follow recipes even if i am cooking from a cookbook. i rarely use measuring cups, because i taste my way through cooking. especially when i began working, i wanted to use whatever i had in my refrigerator and pantry in the most easiest and simplified form possible.
so, if you’re looking for simple korean reciples, you’re at the right place.
let’s start cooking! :)
– j