Since meeting Will, I have been introduced to many Korean-inspired dishes – and this dish is probably one of my favourites. In Korea, it is called Japchae – sweet potato starch noodles stir fried with vegetables and meat – and is one of their best-loved dishes. We have modified traditional recipes to make it much easier to cook and vegetarian. It seems like there is a lot of ingredients – but you can switch up the vegetables to whatever you have in your fridge, and if you can’t find sweet potato starch noodles, you can use glass noodles. You will see that you need to cook each vegetable separately – which seems like a lot of work – but is based on the premise that each vegetable requires a different cooking time and level of care. Who am I to mess with such a beloved recipe! Have a go and let me know what you think!
Let me also tell you about some of the goodness in this dish:
What exactly are sweet potato starch noodles - these are a type of cellophane noodle (also known as glass noodles) that are transparent made from starch (in this case sweet potato starch) and water. You buy these noodles in a dried form, and when cooked, these pale grey noodles turn clear. Very commonly used in Korean dishes. These noodles are light, and have a low glycaemic index;
Leeks – a nutrient dense vegetable, with notable levels of magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Like garlic, leeks are a great source of allicin, the same sulphur compound that gives garlic its microbial properties;
Aubergine – a member of the nightshade plant family, aubergine is a great source of fibre – meaning that aubergines are a great vegetable to include in your diet if you are looking to better manage your blood sugar levels. Aubergines are also a good source of manganese, folate, potassium, vitamin K and vitamin C. They are also rich in antioxidants, specifically nasunin found in aubergine skin – which gives it its purple colour;
Spinach – a great vegetarian source of iron – iron plays a central role in the function of red blood cells which help in transporting oxygen around the body, in DNA synthesis and energy production. It is also a fabulous source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate;
For the sauce:
½ pear, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Thumb piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp ground black pepper
150g sweet potato starch noodles (or glass noodles)
2 carrots, peeled & julienned
½ aubergine, chopped into 1 cm chunks
1 small leek, finely chopped
120g shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Toasted sesame seeds
Start with preparing the sauce – grab a food processor and blend the following ingredients together – pear, garlic, 1 spring onion, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp honey, ground black pepper and 1 tbsp sesame oil. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Place to one side.
Then bring a large pan of water to the boil. Place your noodles in the boiling water, cover and cook for one minute. Give them a stir, and then continue to cover and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the noodles are soft. Once the noodles are cooked, remove and drain. Rinse the noodles, and then place to one side. Add a teaspoon or two of sesame oil to the noodles to prevent them from sticking together.
Whilst the noodles are cooking, you cook your vegetables – individually. Its going to be handy to have a large serving plate next to you, to place your vegetables once cooked.
Grab a large wok, and heat 1 tsp of sesame oil. Start with the aubergine, and fry, stirring constantly for 5-7 minutes until golden and soft. Remove from the pan and place on the place next to you.
Repeat with all the vegetables. Each time add a little sesame oil to the pan, add the vegetable and cook for a few minutes (2-3) until softened – the aim is to slightly cook the vegetables, but keeping them crunchy! You can do it in this order:
Leek and 2 spring onions can be done together
Red Bell Pepper
Finish with the spinach – lightly sauté the spinach until wilted, no longer than a minute.
Remove the wok from the heat, add all the vegetables back to the wok, followed by the cooked noodles and then the sauce you prepared earlier. Give this all a good stir.
Serve in bowls and finish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and spring onion.