Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Japchae, or Rainbow Ribbons with Glass Noodles

The noodle aisle of an Asian grocery store is a thrilling place. My local shop, Marché Hawaii, has at least three rows dedicated to dried noodles. In addition there is a fresh noodle area at the back of the store. On my last visit I picked up two packages of noodles, one made from brown rice and one from sweet potato starch. The sweet potato vermicelli, or dang myun, is used in the traditional Korean dish Japchae. This glassy noodle pairs beautifully with a rainbow assortment of vegetables cut into feathery strips. I chose red onion, red bell pepper, carrots, bok choy, bean sprouts and green onions for my version of this Korean recipe. Japchae is typically made with mushrooms and spinach, so don't limit yourself when selecting vegetables for your preparation.

After cleaning and trimming the vegetables, I use a small knife to julienne all but the carrots. It wasn't worth the cleanup effort to use my mandoline, so I used a julienne peeler to cut the carrots. My purpose is to have a uniform dish of delectable ribbons of color - no chunky vegetable cuts here. This vegetarian version is delicious but add in slivers of tofu or flank steak if you would like to up the protein factor.

1/2 pound sweet potato vermicelli
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon safflower oil (substitute: canola or peanut, not olive)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch knob of ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 large bok choy, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 ounces bean sprouts
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

Prepare the vegetables. In a large pot, boil enough water to cover the noodles. Add the noodles; cook for 7 minutes. Drain noodles in a colander. Drizzle the sesame oil over the noodles; use tongs to toss and coat. Give the pot a rinse and dry.

In the same pot, heat the safflower oil over medium. Add garlic, ginger, chili flakes, red onion, red bell pepper and carrots; cook for 2 minutes. Add bok choy, bean sprouts and green onions; cook for 3 minutes. Turn off heat. Add noodles and tamari to the pot; use tongs to toss and coat mixture. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

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