Chap chae cooking adventure

A little while ago Kitty, Cari and I were shopping at H-Mart in the Korean area of Coquitlam and we each picked up 12-ounce packages of Korean potato starch noodles which can only really be successfully prepared in the Korean stir-fry noodle dish, chap chae.

Chap chae is one of my favourite Korean dishes because the noodles are wonderfully springy to the bite, some of the julienned vegetables are so tasty, and a lot of oil goes into greasing up the dish and adding flavour. Sesame oil, Kitty told us, was the key.

Not sure of which recipe to go with, I started following an Epicurious.com recipe that ranks high in “japchae recipe” searches. I followed more than half the recipe, soaking the noodles (which smelled kind of funky when softened by hot water), soaking and marinating the mushrooms, frying up the meat (I used ground turkey) in yangnyumjang sauce (the secret), and stirring the noodles with more yangnyumjang sauce. That was a lot of steps! The recipe called for more separate cooking of the julienned vegetables, which took forever for me to julienne by the way, and I just gave up, sauteed the vegetables (carrots, onions, red peppers) all together to a desired crunchiness and then mixed in the noodles and turkey, just to be done with it.

Preparing this one dish took me 90 whole minutes started after an intense workout on a Friday after a long week at work and I cursed at the many steps and how long it took to prepare the ingredients. Whenever I encounter a recipe like this, I feel again deep appreciation for my parents as restaurant entrepreneurs, who have to nail down coordinating so many meals and multitasking, chaining processes one after the other to be maximally productive. And when the restaurant is not open, they are doing prep work to cut all the vegetables to fill huge bins with different cuts of vegetables, planning menus and the ingredients required when I can hardly deal with a two-course menu.

At least my 90 minutes of effort on one dish yielded us four servings the day of (three for NPY who had hockey afterwards, one for me) and three more mouth-watering portions for lunch at work. I would love to make chap chae again and NPY enjoyed it and agreed to be my chef’s assistant next time I try this recipe again… he better!

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