Korean Stir-Fried Glass Noodles (Japchae)

I heart noodles.


Chow mein.


And especially my mom’s mie goreng (Indonesian fried noodles).

But today, I’d like to give a shout-out to a lesser known noodle dish—japchae.

A classic Korean dish, you’ll find japchae on the menu at just about any Korean restaurant in the U.S. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a party at a Korean friend’s house, japchae will probably show up on your plate together with kalbi and kimchi.

Like many other Asian noodle dishes, japchae is a stir-fried mix of noodles, vegetables and meat. It happens to use an unusual type of noodle made from sweet potato starch, which seems to be unique to Korean cuisine (I’m happy to be proven wrong–anyone?).

Koreans have already shown their ingenuity by mixing rice with other grains to make supplies go further—et voilà, jabgok-bap (mixed grain rice), So perhaps they invented sweet potato starch noodles when wheat was unavailable.

Clear and chewy, sweet potato noodles are a fabulous blank canvas for soaking up the sweet and savory flavors of soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. These pale gray strands are also the reason why japchae is commonly known as glass noodles.

Plus, japchae has mass appeal: it’s popular for feeding a crowd because it’s easy to make in bulk and is tasty both warm or at room temperature—perfect for a buffet or a picnic.

Noodles–signifying long life–are a must during birthdays and the new year. Since Lunar New Year is next week (February 15, 2015), you might want to try slipping japchae into your celebration menu!


Stir-Fried Glass Noodles (Japchae)


Japchae is often a co-mingling of noodles and an assortment of vegetables and meat. My recipe uses only vegetables but feel free to add your choice of protein. I’ve sliced up leftover sirloin steak and and barbecued pork (about 1 cup) and tossed them in with the noodles. Sweet potato noodles are sold at Asian markets. If you can’t find them, substitute the fattest mung bean/cellophane noodles available and follow the package directions to cook.

Time: 30 minutes plus soaking
Makes: 6 to 8 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

1 pound dried Korean sweet potato noodles
Hot water
8 ounces spinach, trimmed (4 to 5 cups)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
6 medium dried black mushrooms, rehydrated and cut into thin slices (3/4 cup)
1 small yellow onion, halved and cut into thin crescents
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (1-1/4 cups)
3 green onions, white and green parts, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

  1. Place the noodles in a heatproof bowl and soak in hot water for 15 minutes.
  2. With kitchen shears, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces. You just want the noodles to be manageable so don’t worry about getting exact lengths. Drain and set aside.
  3. Place the spinach in a heatproof bowl and soak in very hot water for 1 to 2 minutes until wilted but not fully cooked. Rinse under cold running water and drain. Gently squeeze the water from the spinach and cut into 3 sections.
  4. Preheat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the oil and heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Add the mushrooms, onion, carrots, green onions, and garlic and stir and cook until the carrots are crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and toss in the noodles (here’s where you add precooked meat if you’d like).
  5. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Stir everything swiftly around the wok for 3 to 4 minutes, coating the noodles evenly with the seasonings. Add more oil if the noodles stick to the bottom of the wok. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
  6. Mix in the spinach and sesame seeds at the very end and toss with a couple more flourishes. Serve hot or let cool to room temperature.

Note:  Japchae keeps well and can stay fresh for up to a week in the refrigerator. To reheat, cook in a skillet and add sesame oil until the noodles are supple and heated through.


This post is for #LetsLunch, a monthly virtual potluck on Twitter.  The theme this month is noodles, hosted by Betty Ann at Asian in America. Please keep coming back for more #Let’sLunch noodle dishes (perfect for Lunar New Year!):

Annabelle‘s Emergency Anti-Hibernal Salad at Glass of Fancy

Betty-Ann‘s Chicken Noodle Soup with Roast Barbecue at Asian in America

Cheryl’s Gingery Chicken and Bokchoy Noodle Soup at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Demetra‘s Southern Style Ramen with Bacon at Sweet Savant

Eleanor‘s Marinara Chicken in a Wok — With Pasta at Wok Star

Juliana‘s Grilled Tofu Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad at J. Loh

Linda‘s Taiwanese Hot Pot at Spicebox Travels

Lisa‘s Lokshen Kugel at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Naomi‘s Biang Biang Noodles at The Gastrognome

Tammi‘s Thai Glass Noodle Salad at Insatiable Munchies


15-Minute Meal: Soba with Parmesan and Pan Fried Brussels Sprouts

Many recipes claim to be quick and easy, but few live up to expectations.

With the craziness of the holiday season, I’ve been wanting–and needing—quick-to-pull-together lunches. Given the choice, I prefer not to have cold lunches so sandwiches or salads are out. In the end, I usually have leftovers or cook something easy.

When Stephanie Stiavetti sent me her just-released cookbook co-authored with Garrett McCord, Melt—The Art of Macaroni and Cheese (Little, Brown & Company, November, 2013), I was blown away by the gorgeous photography and creative mac and cheese combinations.


While flipping through the book, I came across a recipe that called for soba, Brussels sprouts and parmesan. It sounds like an odd combo, but if you’re an eclectic cook like me, you probably have these ingredients sitting right in your pantry. The recipe was oh-so brief and simple; I was sold!

I did tweak the recipe a little, using frozen Brussels sprouts instead of fresh ones and the dish came together in barely 15 minutes. Now the true test—did it taste good? Given its simplicity, I was astonished at how tasty it was—the bittersweet sprouts played very nicely with the salty Parmesan and the chewy soba bundled the flavors together well.

This recipe is a winner on so many levels: it satisfies, uses few, easily available ingredients, and is indeed a 15-minute meal.

For more info about Melt, please visit Stephanie’s blog: theculinarylife.com or check out their book trailer here. It’s perfect for the cheese-lover on your Christmas list!


Soba with Parmesan and Pan Fried Brussels Sprouts

Adapted from Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord


The original recipe uses fresh Brussels sprouts but I had frozen ones in the freezer. They added to the brevity of cooking time. If you do use fresh, be sure to remove the stems and outer leaves. Halve them and blanche them for quicker cooking. Wholewheat spaghetti would be an excellent substitute for the soba.

Makes: 2 entree servings
Time: 15 minutes

8 ounces frozen petite Brussels sprouts (about 20)
2 bundles soba (about 6-8 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fine sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Chili flakes (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Finely grated Parmesan

Thaw/cook the Brussels sprouts in the microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Drain excess water.

Meanwhile, prepare the soba per the manufacturer’s instructions. Once they are cooked, immediately drain and rinse under cool water for a moment, drain again, and then toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Do this regardless of what the noodle instructions say at that point, as some may instruct you not to add oil. Set aside.

Place the remaining tablepoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the Brussels sprouts. Season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts start to turn golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Toss the soba in the hot pan for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add an extra glug of oil, if you desire. Plate and shower liberally with Parmesan. Serve immediately.

**Disclaimer: Melt was gifted to me by Stephanie Stiavetti but I think this is a great recipe and it’s a great book!**

Thai Red Curry Noodles (Khao Soi)–A Dish to Feed a Crowd

khao soi_two

My mum loved to throw parties—big ones, small ones, medium ones–and there was always one constant: good food, and lots of it.

Cooking for company often meant days of prep and a kitchen bustling with activity morning till evening. Ma would grind spice pastes for dishes like beef rendang or pork satay. She’d braise turmeric-spiced chicken for hours on the stovetop ahead of the next step–deep-frying them the day of the party (yes, the chicken was cooked twice!). And I, as soon as I could fold neat corners, was roped in to roll lumpia (fried spring rolls) by the dozens. Ma never skimped when it came to entertaining family and friends.

We also had friends over on an ad-hoc basis; neighbors, schoolmates, church friends, etc. came by our house weekly. On these occasions, Ma would make an all-in-one noodle meal. Prep was quick and easy and everyone could serve themselves. Her noodle repertoire ran along these lines: bakmi (egg noodles topped with pork and mushrooms), soto daging (noodles with beef and lemongrass soup), and Indonesian laksa (rice vermicelli noodles doused in a coconut-chicken-turmeric soup).

I recently discovered a Thai noodle dish similar to Ma’s laksa and immediately fell in love with it. With the help of store-bought red curry paste, khao soi is fairly easy to make for dinner guests and tongue-tingly delicious! Because each noodle bowl is customizable, even kids can enjoy it (just start with a mild curry paste). And no one would guess it only takes 30 minutes to prepare.

This is my kind of entertaining.


Thai Red Curry Noodles (Khao Soi)

khao soi_solo

Khao soi is a popular Northern Thai dish with cousins in Burma (ohn-no-kauk-swe) and Singapore (laksa). A tangle of fried noodles and a squeeze of lime liven up the party, creating a tasty mélange of sweet, sour, salty flavors and lovely contrasting textures. If you’re serving a larger crowd, this recipe is easily doubled or tripled. You can also choose to lay out all the ingredients on the table and let your guests serve themselves.

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings, depending on appetites

Red Curry Gravy
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots or 1/2 small red onion, chopped
4 tablespoons red curry paste (I recommend Mae Ploy or Thai Kitchen brands)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 cups coconut milk, divided
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

To serve
12 ounces dried or 2 pounds fresh egg noodles (Chinese or Italian are fine)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 cups store-bought fried noodles (like La Choy brand)
1/2 small red or white onion, sliced thinly
Chopped cilantro
Chopped green onions
2 limes, cut into wedges
Soy sauce
Crushed chili flakes

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pot until it shimmers. Add the garlic and shallots and stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the red curry paste and turmeric and stir and cook until the paste turns a few shades darker and fills your kitchen with a pungent aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Slowly pour in 1 cup coconut milk, stirring to blend, and cook until the sauce bubbles. Let it bubble gently over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a layer of red oil separates from the sauce and rises to the surface, about 3 minutes. Stir in the second cup of coconut milk and repeat the process of waiting for the oil to separate.

Pour in the stock and bring the sauce to a gentle boil over medium-high heat before reducing the heat to a simmer. Add the soy sauce and sugar and taste. The curry should taste a bit too salty (it will balance out when ladled over the noodles) and a tad sweet, with some heat to it. Add more soy sauce if necessary (this will depend on how salty your stock is). Keep the curry warm over low heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Stir the noodles as they cook to loosen them and prevent sticking. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.

To serve, divide the noodles and chicken into 4 to 6 individual bowls. Ladle about 3/4 cup of curry over each bowl. Garnish with fried noodles, onions, cilantro, and green onions as desired. Serve with the lime wedges, and extra soy sauce and chili flakes in little dishes.


Today’s post is part of the monthly Let’s Lunch Twitter blogger potluck and we’re featuring food that’s shared with family and friends in honor of fellow Let’s Luncher Lisa Goldberg’s book Monday Morning Cooking Club (HarperCollins; Reprint edition, September 17, 2013) which just launched its U.S. edition.


For more Let’s Lunch posts, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit my fellow bloggers below: 

Lisa’s No Ordinary Meatloaf at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Anne Marie’s Almond Cheesecake Sammy Bites at Sandwich Surprise

Betty Anne’s Sisig Rice, Spicy Pork Belly and Garlic Rice at Asian in America Mag

Eleanor’s Surf and Turf at Wokstar

Grace’s Zha Jiang Mien at HapaMama

Jill’s Homemade Corned Beef at Eating My Words

Linda’s Vegan Pumpkin Pie at Spicebox Travels

Lucy’s Sweet Potatoes with Cane Syrup at A Cook and Her Books

Black Sesame Soba Noodles


Soba, made from buckwheat flour, is prettily packed in bundles about 8 to a package. Note that many sobas are also made with wheat flour so it isn’t a gluten-free food.  Juwari, the finest–and usually most expensive–soba is made entirely of buckwheat, but please please read the labels especially if you are allergic or intolerant to wheat!

Black Sesame Soba Noodles

{Adapted from 101cookbooks.com}

black sesame noodles3

This is turning out to be my go-to recipe for a simple summer lunch. It’s done in 15 minutes, even less if you make the sesame paste ahead and refrigerate. Top the noodles with whatever you have on hand—poached chicken, pan-fried tofu, pickles, your options are only limited to what you have in your fridge!

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup toasted black sesame seeds
2-1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-1/2 teaspoon mirin or dry sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of chili pepper flakes or cayenne
12 ounces soba (3 bundles)
1 small cucumber, shredded
1 small carrot, shredded

Grind the sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle, or in a small food processor, until it resembles coarse black sand.

Stir in the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, sugar, and chili flakes and mix until a smooth paste forms. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Cook the soba according to package directions, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Rinse the noodles with cold water and drain.

Thin the sesame paste with the cooking water and toss with the noodles. Garnish with cucumber and carrot and slurp up! This dish is tasty eaten at room temperature or chilled first.


Operation Cook Down My Kitchen (CDMK) Kicks Off With Dan Dan Mian … and a Giveaway

Noodles, noodles, noodles ... what to do with these noodles?

We’re doing it again. Moving that is.

This is the second time in less than a year, the fifth since we married in 2002. And, I’m not counting the periods in-between living out of a suitcase in a hotel or someone’s guest room for weeks at a time.

Five times in nine years isn’t bad for a military family if you think about it. Still, I am tiring of it.

This time though, I’m not focused on the actual, physical act of moving. Yes, there are books to box and clothes to fold into suitcases. There are toys to give away and furniture to sell.

But this time is different.

This time, my husband, my son, and I are moving away from the Washington, D.C. area. But this time, we’re headed for different destinations. Isaac and I are moving to Seattle to spend the next year living with my sister and her husband (and two dogs!). My husband is deploying to Afghanistan. He’s not going overseas till late March but he left this past weekend for four weeks of training.

In his brief–for now–absence, I am also “in training.” I am preparing myself mentally and spiritually for our 12 month separation. I am anticipating Isaac’s reaction to daddy being gone with an aching heart. I am practicing the art of being Zen (absolutely necessary with a toddler).

And, I am strategizing on how to use up all the noodles, canned foods, sauces, condiments, etc., etc., lurking in every corner of my tiny kitchen.

This bottle of tahini dressing has been languishing in my fridge since I bought it several months ago.

Considering we’ve only lived in our current apartment for eight months, I really don’t know how I managed to accumulate enough food to feed a Navy flotilla of starved sailors when I only live with one.

To start Operation CDMK, I inventoried my entire kitchen. I’m sure I’ve missed a can of corn or two hiding out under the sink but here’s what I have:

Dried food
Black rice
Rice noodles
Egg noodles
Red lentils
Rose petals
Lasagna noodles
Cornbread mix
Mochiko flour
Roasted peanuts
Sesame seeds
Palm sugar

Canned food
Coconut milk
Crushed tomatoes
Coconut water
Straw mushrooms

Frozen galangal
Banana leaves
Pandan leaves
Green beans

Tahini dressing
Tamarind paste
Pickled ginger
Duck sauce
Soy sauce (3 types)
Fish sauce
Wasabi powder
Balsamic vinegar

Gooseberry preserves
Branston pickle
Peanut butter

And of course I have myriad spices: coriander, cardamom, turmeric, paprika, etc., etc.

With only four weeks till we move, my tactic is to use up as many items as possible in one dish.

Am I in trouble? If someone has a 12-step (or less!) kitchen cleansing program, I obviously need to hear about it.

Or better yet, please leave me suggestions for interesting flavor combinations/recipes using my ingredients above in the comments section. To make it a little more fun, I’ll give away 2 downloads of my “Asian Ingredients 101” iPhone app. I’ll be looking out for recipes that use the most ingredients at one go, and/or the most creative recipe

***This giveaway will remain open until March 1st, so do keep your suggestions coming!***

My husband has been gone almost a week now and I’m surviving. I only suppress the tears whenever Isaac comes home to an empty house crying out, “Dada … dada … dada?” But he’s a tough kid and is easily distracted by choo choos and Elmo.

Looking on the bright side, I’ve checked off a few things from my list. In fact, the first recipe I’m featuring, Dan Dan Mian (Szechuan/Sichuan Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce), used up five items!

So wish me luck and success as I embark on Operation CDMK, and the next phase of my journey.

P/S: Please help spread the word about my giveaway by sharing below!


Dan Dan Mian (Szechuan/Sichuan Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce)

I came across a recipe for dan dan noodles (“mian” means noodles in Mandarin) in Bon Appetit magazine the other day and immediately recalled the hand-shaven noodles soaked in a spicy, peanutty broth I used to inhale at Seven Stars Pepper Szechuan Restaurant in Seattle. The version I adapted isn’t as brothy and uses tahini/sesame paste instead of a peanut base which is just fine with me because I had a bottle of tahini dressing I had absolutely no idea what to do with. Since I was trying to use up what I have on hand, I substituted or left out what some might consider key ingredients (yes, that would include Szechuan peppercorns). Nonetheless, it turned out to be the perfect solo lunch. Double or quadruple the amounts to feed more people.

Makes: 1 generous serving
Time: 30 minutes

4 ounces fresh, fat Chinese egg noodles (or Shanghai cu mian or udon), or 2 to 3 ounces dried noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus a little more
6 ounces ground pork
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced, peeled ginger (from a 1-inch piece)
1/3 cup chicken stock, or more
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or Chinkiang black vinegar
3 teaspoons tahini dressing (or 2 teaspoons tahini/sesame paste)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili flakes or chili oil (more if you like it spicier)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Dash sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
1 green onion, chopped
Fried shallots and fried garlic (optional)

Cook noodles according to package directions until just tender, taking care not to overcook. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Drizzle with a little oil to prevent the strands from sticking and set aside in a large bowl.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pork and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to break up the pork and cook until halfway done, about 2 minutes.

Add the ginger and cook until the pork is cooked through and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, tahini, soy sauce, chili flakes, and sugar. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. (Add more stock if you’d like a soupier dish.)

Stir in the sesame oil and pour the pork mixture over the noodles. Garnish with the peanuts, green onions, fried shallots and fried garlic.

Pat’s Notes:

Chinese egg noodles, Shanghai-style noodles, or udon can be found at Asian markets. Substitute with linguine if you must. Tahini is available at specialty markets and at Middle Eastern markets. If you’re already at an Asian market, try looking for Chinese sesame paste.


Garlic Butter Noodles

There are secret recipes and there are secret recipes.

Ever since I moved to Northern California, I’ve heard rumors about the famous recipes prepared in the secret kitchen at the An family’s Thanh Long Restaurant. (They also own two branches of the upmarket Crustacean restaurants).

The key to the An Family success story, the secret kitchen is a completely enclosed space within the main kitchen that is off limits to all employees except An Family members where they prepare their money-making recipes such as their much-talked-about garlic noodles.

garlic noodles 008

Butter and garlic are just 2 ingredients that go into making this an unparalleled dish!

As matriarch Helene An explains on their website, her family recipes, her culinary legacy, are her daughter’s inheritance. In much the same way that Coca-Cola® company stowed their recipes for Coke® in a vault, the An Family Secret Kitchen was created.

I have to admit that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try these legendary noodles. However, the noodles have been written up numerous times with varying riffs on the supposed recipe. There’s a thread on Yelp.com, and recipes concocted by bloggers Bee of Rasa Malaysia and Andrea of Viet World Kitchen. This fact has not been lost on me.

So when I saw a recipe for garlic butter noodles in Jaden Hair’s just-released Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, I figured it was about time I tried it.

After perusing several garlic noodle recipes inspired by the An family version, I deduced that the recipe’s secret just might lie in Maggi Seasoning, a culinary throwback to my childhood. I can still remember the TV commercials where the smiley-faced, motherly-type on screen would add a dash of Maggi Seasoning to just about every dish she was making, be it scrambled eggs, soup noodles or fried rice.

garlic noodles 043
Like magic, Maggi Seasoning adds tons of flavor to any dish!

I’d always assumed Maggi was an Asian brand but after a quick Google search, I found it quite to the contrary. Plus a couple of other interesting facts about Maggi Seasoning.

1. Maggi GmbH was actually founded in 1897 by Julius Maggi in the German town of Singen where it is still established today.

2. Maggi Seasoning is a dark, hydrolyzed vegetable protein-based sauce that doesn’t actually contain soy although it tastes similar to soy sauce. Wheat, and its derivatives, seems to be the main ingredient.

3. It was introduced in 1886 as a cheap substitute for meat extract (flavoring?) and is very popular in Switzerland, Austria and especially in Germany.

I haven’t researched how Maggi Seasoning became a pantry staple in Southeast Asia but the wave of nostalgia it brought on sent me tumbling back to my childhood. “Maggi mee, fast to cook, good to eat!” ring a bell? Funny how my fondest memories of Maggi mee is eating them raw in my primary school canteen!

Anyways, I’m glad for the reintroduction. I feel like Jaden’s recipe reacquainted me with a long lost childhood friend AND I have found a new addition to my kitchen repertoire: her absolutely delicious rendition of garlic noodles.

Garlic Butter Noodles
Adapted from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

garlic noodles 034

I honestly don’t have a comparison to the original but these noodles are sure darn good! Be forewarned, you mustn’t be afraid of fat. I can’t wait to try out more of Jaden’s recipes. For more blogger interpretations of The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook recipes, go to White on Rice Couple. Incidentally, they featured the garlic noodles as well, with their own take on the recipe.

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

7 oz dried egg noodles
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Maggi Seasoning or soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Bring a large pot of  water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain noodles and wipe the pot clean. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the butter. When the butter is sizzling and bubbling a bit, add the green onion and the garlic. Fry for 1 minute or until very fragrant; be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the brown sugar, Maggi Seasoning and oyster sauce and stir well to mix everything evenly. Add the noodles and toss vigorously to get the good stuff evenly distributed throughout the noodles.