Meatless Monday: Japchae – Vermont Garden Edition

Thank you Korean inventor of sweet potato vermicelli noodles.  I don’t know who you are or how these came to be, but I am grateful for your creative mind and for the well-stocked Asian grocery stores who carry your fine product (including, I just discovered, Amazon.com).  Grain-free, wheat-free and gluten-free, easy to work with, and fun to eat, these noodles landed in my kitchen after a successful shopping trip in Montreal’s Chinatown yesterday.

The Vermont garden version of the Korean Japchae noodle dish I made, may not fully qualify for the name, but it was easy to make with vegetables I had, and the noodles and the Asian flavored sauce made the meal stand out as something special.

Vermont Garden Japchae

  • 1 bag sweet potato vermicelli noodles
  • 1 package of tofu, ideally drained and pressed for several hours before cooking
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into inch long pieces
  • 1 red onion, cut into inch long pieces
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup red, yellow, orange and/or green bell pepper slices
  • 1 bunch bok choy, chopped
  • good handful of green beans
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • small handful of fresh basil leaves, cut finely
  • 1/3 cup tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce (such as Sriracha) or to taste
  • sesame seeds
  • additional soy sauce, hot sauce, sesame seeds, lime wedges (optional, for serving)

Method:

  1. If your package of sweet potato vermicelli comes with preparation instructions you understand, please follow them. Mine did not, so I guessed: I soaked the noodles for about 20 minutes and when they weren’t soft enough yet, I cooked them in boiling water for another 5-10. Drain softened noodles and set aside.
  2. Cut tofu into small 1/2 inch pieces and fry them in 2 tablespoons coconut oil until they develop a light brown crust. Slide them onto a plate and set aside.
  3. Warm the remaining coconut oil in a skillet, and sauté onions until just starting to brown.  Add ginger, garlic and other vegetables and sauté for another few minutes.  I added the carrot and basil at the very end to keep them raw, bright and crunchy.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the sauce ingredients.
  5. In a large pot, such as a Dutch oven, combine softened noodles, vegetables, tofu and sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve (tongs make for easiest serving)
  6. Serve with additional soy sauce, hot sauce, lime wedges, and sesame seeds; and either chop sticks, a fork, or maybe a pair of scissors (those are some long noodles).

It was a “Can I have seconds?”, “Can I have thirds?” kind of dinner.  My favorite kind.

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