|Meatless Monday Japchae, not that you'd miss the meat - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
So, why bean thread noodles/saifun? If you had to, you could probably swap the noodles out with an angel hair pasta, but there's a really lovely bite to bean thread noodles; they're stretchy with a distinctive toothy bite. They're made up of mung bean, sweet potato or yam starch and/or other root starches, but not wheat, so it's a nice gluten-free noodle to keep in mind. You don't taste any of the bean or potato starch and thin sauces cling to it nicely, so it's ideal for japchae, which uses a thin sesame oil-based sauce. This version of japchae is meatless, making it perfect for Meatless Monday. And it's not one of those dishes where it suffers from the removal of meat, since the bulk of the flavor expeience is in the multiple vegetables and sweet-savory sesame oil sauce. You could add ribbons of scrambled egg to add more protein, and adding shiitake mushrooms gives it an earthy, meaty flavor.
|The Magic Bean (noodles) and whatever vegetables you want - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Hot Noodles! Hellboy would approve - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
1 package (about 8 oz) of bean thread noodles (see above for more variations on the name)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup of chopped shiitake mushrooms (fresh or reconstituted dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
Any combination of favorite vegetables, but can include:
1 cup carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 cup wilted spinach
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup bok choi, chopped into small bite sized pieces
Can also add cooked cubes of tofu or sliced ribbons of scrambled egg
toasted sesame seeds
Sriracha hot sauce as condiment, because it goes well with EVERYTHING
Heat a pot of water until boiling and cook the saifun/bean thread noodles. When the noodles are tender, but not overcooked, drain and in a separate bowl, toss lightly with 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil. This will flavor the noodles as well as keep them from sticking to each other.
Take a heavy bottomed pan or wok heat to medium high on the stove. Add the vegetable oil and start to cook down your vegetables until tender. Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the shiitake mushrooms, along with the tofu and egg, if you are adding those. Add the chopped garlic, soy sauce, remaining sesame oil and sprinkle on the sugar. Keep the soy sauce and sugar handy to adjust to your flavor preference. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the vegetables and sauce are fully combined, add the bean thread noodles and gently toss to fully mix the ingredients.
To serve, top each bowl of japchae with a sprinkle of fresh chopped scallions, sesame seeds and hot sauce, if you want to add more heat. Don't be surprised if you can't stop eating, it's really that good.