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When I want a dish that’s a complete meal in itself and easy to prepare, I very often turn to stir-fry noodles. Most of the work is in preparing the vegetables, but once that’s done everything is quickly cooked in one pan with the flavors and seasoning of your choice. It’s also a forgiving and tasty way to clean the fridge of odds and ends, and clearing up is a breeze.

There must be a million ways to prepare noodles, but Chap Chae is one of my recent discoveries and fast becoming a favorite among family and friends. A Korean dish, Chap Chae is made with seasonal vegetables, sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon) and flavored with garlic, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil.  This dish is great hot or cold!  I made it last weekend for a potluck dinner with a gaggle of girlfriends from high school. It got good reviews and a couple of requests for the recipe 🙂    Here it is:

Chap Chae

Serves 6-8

150 grams Korean potato noodles
½ cup soy sauce
6 Tbsp sesame oil
5 Tbsp brown sugar
6-8 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
3 medium carrots, julienned
60 grams dried shiitake mushrooms
200 grams green beans, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 large head napa cabbage, chopped
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

1. Soak the noodles in water for 30 minutes to soften, then boil for 2-3 minutes or until cooked but still firm. Drain and reserve.

2. Rinse the shiitake mushrooms then soak for 30 minutes in enough hot water to cover. Drain, squeeze out excess water, and slice thinly. Reserve the soaking water to use as stock.

3. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and garlic in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Set aside.

4. Heat cooking oil in a large wok or frying pan. Add onions and carrots, cook for 2 minutes. Add green beans and shiitake mushrooms, cook 3-4 minutes. Add some of the reserved soaking water from the mushrooms as necessary, but be sparing as you will add the soy sauce mixture later.  Add cabbage. Now add the pre-cooked noodles and the soy sauce mixture. Mix everything until evenly combined. Leave to cook for a couple of minutes or until vegetables are cooked but still crisp.  Stir in sesame seeds, leaving a couple of tablespoons to sprinkle on top.

Notes:

  • You can use other vegetables, or add to the ones above.  Snow peas, brocolli, cauliflower, zucchini, cabbage and spinach would work well.
  • Korean sweet potato noodles–dangmyeon–are the best to use for this dish.  They are easily available from a Korean grocery. I learned recently there are different grades of noodles, and the top grade gives you a more chewy, fatter noodle that’s more resistant to over cooking. If you can’t get dangmyeon, mung bean glass noodles (sotanghon/ tanghoon) are good too. Since these are thinner, you will need to reduce the cooking time.
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