One of the things I remember fondly about my visit to Seoul last year was the food.
While my daughter and I were impressed by our tour of palaces and heritage places, and were charmed by the poetic scenery of cherry blossoms and landscapes of distant mountains shrouded in mist, we were also really fascinated by the cuisine.
One of the things we liked was the tempting spread of appetizers served before every meal. The most famous of these, of course, is the kimchi, fermented pickled cabbage with very spicy and slightly tart flavors. But then there would be other palate ticklers, too, such as bean sprouts, potatoes, radish, cucumbers and spinach—each with its own unique combination of salty, spicy and sour flavors, and all dutifully whetting the appetite for the main dishes to come.
I was therefore pleased when Hotel InterContinental announced its special food festival featuring Korean cuisine. In tandem with ARA Korean restaurant, Café Jeepney is serving this week, until May 27, a buffet of Korean specialties that include the rich beef stew called galbijim (or kalbijim); bibimbap (rice bowl with beef and assorted vegetables); and japchae, the sweet glass noodles mixed with thinly sliced beef and vegetables.
Here’s a recipe for japchae, one of the most popular Korean dishes.
(Korean dishes will be part of the lunch and dinner buffets in Café Jeepney until May 27. Buffet price is P1,600++ per person. Call 7937000.)
Makes four servings.
6 c water
225 g (8 oz) vermicelli/sotanghon or glass noodles
5 fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp cooking oil, divided
2 eggs, beaten
Salt, to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c bite-size cabbage leaves
1 medium carrot, sliced into thin sticks
2 stems spring onions, cut into about 1-inch lengths
½ c water
3 ½ tbsp sugar
¼ c + 2 tbsp soy sauce (6 tbsp total)
1 tbsp sesame oil
150 g thinly sliced beef sirloin
1 tbsp sesame seeds
In a large pan, bring the six cups water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for two to three minutes or until tender. Drain noodles then set aside.
Remove stems from mushrooms and discard stems. Slice mushroom caps into thin lengths. Set aside. Heat 1 tbsp of the cooking oil in a skillet. Season eggs with salt and cook them in the skillet scramble-style. Remove eggs from skillet and slice them thinly.
Heat remaining 1 tbsp cooking oil to low heat in a large pan or wok and sauté garlic until fragrant, around one minute. Increase heat to medium, then add cabbage, carrots, spring onions, the prepared mushrooms and the one-half cup water. Cook-stir for about one minute to soften the vegetables.
Combine sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl then pour into pan. Add the beef and simmer for a few seconds so the beef starts to get cooked.
Add the drained noodles. Stir well so the noodles get coated evenly with the soy sauce mixture. Simmer for about one minute then remove from heat. Transfer to a serving platter. Arrange scrambled eggs on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.
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To bring the pot of water to a boil faster, keep the pot covered until the water boils.
Sukiyaki-cut beef is good to use for this recipe. Or you can also use shrimps. Peel the shrimps before adding to the mixture.
This is best served immediately after it is cooked. However, if you have to reheat it: Mix 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil in a bowl. Pour over the noodles and stir to mix while reheating noodles in a pan. This refreshes the noodles and keeps them from getting dry.