I love Korean food, but as with all love, this emotion sits on the edge of falling into hatred. Nothing can potentially derail my commitment to Korean food more than having to make 3-4 banchan (traditional Korean side dishes) with each meal. Each traditional banchan takes a good amount of effort to make, and if you don’t eat Korean food everyday, the banchan piles up, until (gulp) you toss it in the garbage because it’s starting to smell in the fridge.
I remember my beloved mother making 3-4 banchan every night with our rice, and whenever I think about the love and care she put into those dishes, I wish I could have hugged her more when she was alive. I also remember her tired feet and strained eyes that resulted from working all day as a piecemeal garment stitcher, and then having to cook us a traditional Korean meal. Most of the time my mom stitched together hospital tourniquets, and she was paid per unit. She worked from home in the basement on her Singer machine, turning out tourniquets in blinding speed. The roar of the machine would stop when it was nearing dinner time, and she’d take off her nylon apron that repelled lint, only to replace it with her kitchen apron.
I think of my mother often when I’m cooking in the kitchen. Sometimes I feel a tad guilty about the way I’ve dissected her recipes, and transformed banchan into a unrecognizable main dish.
Japchae is a traditional dangmyun (sweet potato noodle) dish where each vegetable and meat are cooked separately to retain their individual color, and then combined with the noodles. I’m using the dangmyun as a base for a noodle bowl, and adding sauteed cabbage, sliced radishes and avocado. You can add whatever veggies you have around and make it your own.
(A Little Tip About Dangmyun): After cooking the noodles, do not rinse with water. Drain, then place in a bowl and toss the noodles in sesame oil while hot. This is a tip handed down to me through my mother, and it does make a difference in the texture of the noodle.
- 1 bundle of dangmyun (sweet potato noodles that are sometimes sold as Korean vermicelli or cellophane noodles)
- 1/4 of a red cabbage (sliced thinly)
- 1/4 of green cabbage (sliced thinly)
- 3-4 red radishes (sliced thinly)
- 1 avocado
- a handful of peanuts (optional)
- 2 tbs of vegetable oil
- 2 tbs of sesame oil
- 1 tbs sugar
- 2 tbs soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Cook dangmyun according to the package. (After 15 minutes in boiling water, taste-test a noodle to check for doneness.)
- Drain noodles and immediately place in a bowl. Add 1 tbs of vegetable oil, 2 tbs of sesame oil, 1 tbs of sugar, 2 tbs of soy sauce and 1 tsp of salt to the hot noodles. Stir together until ingredients are well incorporated.
- Heat a skillet on high and add 1 tbs of vegetable oil to the skillet. Saute sliced cabbage for 3-5 minutes or until they are wilted. Add 1/2 tsp salt to the cabbage.
- To serve: Place noodles in a bowl, and top with cooked cabbage, sliced avocado, sliced radishes, and peanuts.