Since coming back from the Bay Area, I’ve been eating a lot of Korean food. At home, I’ve made mostly bulgogi (post to come) and galbi, but I recently tried my hand at making banchan, well, other than the simple cucumber salad. I typically buy banchan from Zion but since I like to have banchan on hand for just about anything lately, it was time to try making my own. I’ve been craving japchae lately although I don’t really know if japchae is actually considered a banchan dish or not. But anyways…moving on.
For Korean recipes, I usually go to my first source, Maangchi. If you haven’t checked out her sight or her videos, you gotta do it if you’re interested in Korean food. I normally don’t see japchae at Zion, and with the craving and all, it seemed like a good one to start with. It’s also a nice option for the Mister since it’s *mostly* Paleo friendly. At least now he can have another type of noodle other than kelp noodles. For hard core Paleo folks, leave out the sugar. Thank goodness I don’t have those kind of constraints!
So for my first japchae attempt, I followed Maangchi’s recipe almost exactly. There were a few things that I had to adjust, like the cooking time for the sweet potato noodles (dangmyun). Maangchi says to cook the noodles for 3 minutes but the brand I used said 7 minutes. It actually took about 6 minutes for the noodles to get soft. She also mentioned not to rinse the noodles after cooking. Other recipes I’ve read (online and in cookbooks) all recommended rinsing in cold water thoroughly. Lesson learned here, rinse after cooking because the noodles are soooo starchy that it took way more sesame oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. A whole lot more than what the recipe called for. So rinse those noodles immediately, people! That is unless you like sticky noodles and a shit load of sesame oil.
The other things I modified was just the amount of vegetables. I wanted more carrots and onions so I used 2 carrots and 1 very large onion. Once all the prep is done, this dish comes together very quickly. Oh yeah, one other note, Maangchi’s recipe called for 2 bunches of noodles. That’s about half a package of noodles. When I was at Zion, I looked at all the various brands of noodles and most of them weren’t separated in bunches within the package. Most packages were about 1 pound so for her recipe, use about 8 ounces. Oh yeah, one other thing to note. Maangchi cooked most of the ingredients separately and then added them all together. To make it simpler, you can cook the onions and carrots together to save a step.
Overall, we enjoyed this version, even with the extra sesame oil. I liked the white mushrooms in there as well. What’s really nice is that you can add whatever kind of vegetables you want in this as well as any protein. Want to go vegetarian? Leave out the meat or substitute it with some tofu (fried ones perhaps). Only like one kind of vegetable? Then add only that, albeit I think it needs onions for a fuller flavor. The sweetness of the dish can easily be adjusted. I don’t like mine that sweet so I cut back a bit on the sugar. I like just a hint of sweetness.
This dish holds well as a leftover. The noodles don’t get bloated like cellophane noodles and kept its chewiness for a few days of reheating. Loved it! I’ve added some spicy chili paste sauce to one lunch and that was really good, gave it a nice kick. Another time I added a few dashes of Golden Mountain sauce (or Maggi sauce) before reheating and that gave it a different and yummy twist. Best part is that I’m getting a good serving of veggies, if I eat enough of it at one sitting. This is definitely one banchan that I’ll be keeping as a regular.