Mother, Your Son Will Not Starve (Yangnyeumjang Sundubu and Japchae)

Good Man can’t cook. His mother never taught him how (and his father can’t cook either). Actually, that’s not quite true. Good Man can cook ramyeon in the package, military style, and he taught me the finger method for using a rice cooker.

Yesterday Mother called and I told her I was making chapjae. She was so excited, and so happy I was cooking.

I think Mother has a bit of a fear that Good Man with a) starve to death and/or b) die of a massive heart attack from a) not eating good food and/or b) eating too much fast food in America .

Well have no fear, Mother, as I like to cook, and unbeknownst to you, your son likes to do the dishes. So we are a Very Good Pair.

In the airport, with some of the last won in my wallet, I bought The Food of Korea (which also seems to be titled Authentic Recipes from Korea). Mother says she’s going to give me some recipes, but I thought this book was worth picking up. The book is written for people living outside of Korea and has some possible substitutions listed. All too often I find specialty cookbooks have an all or northing mentality about the ingredients. This one seems rather realistic. Also, the recipes ranged from “fancy” stuff to regular food. There’s a lot of seafood that I won’t cook because I don’t do seafood, but I might use those recipes as bases for other things.

Last night I made 양념장 순두부 (soft tofu with a spicy sauce) and 잡채 (glass noodles with mixed vegetables). The tofu is often eaten as anju (side dishes) at bars. The chapjae/japchae was something Mother made when I was over at their house. I love chapjae. It’s sort of like Korean comfort food.

Yangnyeumjang Sundubu (front) and Japchae (back)

Here are the recipes plus my modifications.

양념장 순두부, Yangnyeumjang Sundubu, Soft Tofu with a Spicy Sauce

1 lb (500 g) silken or soft tofu (I used firm tofu and cut it into chunks)
1 spring onion, minced, to garnish (I left this out)

1/2 red chili, deseeded and minced or dried chili strips/flakes, to garnish (I left this out)

1 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 red chili, finely minced (optional) (I used 1 full reconstituted dried chili)
1 t ground red pepper (I used chili power because my parents didn’t have red pepper!)
1 t water

2 t toasted sesame seeds, crushed (I am lazy and used plain sesame seeds)
2 spring onions, minced (I used 3)

Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Dump mix over tofu and garnish if you have more patience than I do. I chilled it in the fridge for about 15 mins while cooking the rest of the meal. Serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish.

I really liked this. It wasn’t as spicy as the stuff I got in Korea, but it was good. Mom and George didn’t like it so much; George doesn’t like tofu and Mom didn’t want to eat scallions before going to work.

잡채, Chapjae/Japchae, Glass Noodles with Meat and Vegetables

10 oz (300 g) rib eye or other beef fillet, cut into thin strips (I used about 12 oz/350 g of some sort of boneless pork cut into thicker-than-they-should-have-been strips; you can also use really firm tofu)
3 T vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten (I did not beat my egg, which I just realized is probably why my egg was messed up)

1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
2 t sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
5 spring onions, cut into lengths (I just sliced them)

1 packet (10 oz/300 g) dried sweet potato starch noodles or thick Chinese glass noodles (I used 210 g of glass noodles, these noodles were very thin but they worked, and 210 g was more than enough!)
1 T soy sauce
1-2 T sugar
1 T sesame oil
1 t salt
1/4 t ground white pepper (I used black as we didn’t have white)

1 onion, thinly sliced (I did chopped)
4 dried, reconstituted black Chinese mushrooms (I used one big portobello instead)
1/2 C (15 g) reconstituted dried wood ear mushrooms (I used some porcini mushrooms, much to the shock of the girl who bagged my groceries, who asked, “What are you doing with these?”)
1 carrot, cut into sections, then thin strips (I grated thin strips off!)
1 zucchini, cut into sections, thin strips (I should have grated the strips off…)
1 red or green bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 T soy sauce
1/2 t salt
1/2 C (125 ml) water (I used the water from reconstituting the mushrooms)

Combine the meat and marinade, mix well, set aside for 30 mins.

Cook (or soak) the noodles according to directions, then season with the rest of the “noodles” ingreds.

Heat a 1/2 T of the oil in a skillet and add the egg. Swirl around to create a thin omelet, slice into long strips and set aside. (I didn’t beat the egg, which is probably why I ended up with scrambled egg. I also just dumped the egg on top of the noodles.)

Heat 1 T oil in skillet and stir fry the meat until cooked. Set meat aside (or dump over noodles).

Heat the remaining oil in a wok over medium heat (use the same skillet!). Add the onions and stir fry until translucent. Add mushrooms and stir fry 2 mins. Increase heat slightly and add the rest of the vegetables, stir fry 2 more mins. Add soy sauce, salt, and water. Stir fry until veggies are tender and liquid has evaporated.

Toss the noodles, meat, and vegetables together. Garnish with the sliced egg and serve. (Or, in Amanda’s Easy Cooking World, just dump the vegetables over the noodles and mix everything.) Serves 4 to 6.

This turned out pretty good. The noodles weren’t quite right (not potato starch) and my ability to slice anything thinly is abysmal (maybe I need a food processor), but the food tasted good! And it was even better today as left overs.

Note! The book says that each recipe serves 4-6 for a meal “consisting of rice, soup, one or two side dishes, as well as two or three main dishes.” I used about 2/3 of the recommended noodles and still came out with 4 huge servings of chapjae. I really, truly, don’t think you need rice and soup and another main and two sides with so much chapjae.