Containing onions, carrots, shitake mushrooms and noodles Japchae is a stir-fried Korean vegetable and noodle dish that is delectable hot, cold and everywhere in between. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Containing onions, carrots, shitake mushrooms and noodles Japchae is a stir-fried Korean vegetable and noodle dish that is delectable hot, cold and everywhere in between. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Noodles made with a loving hand

Japchae is a stir-fried Korean vegetable and noodle dish that is delectable hot, cold and everywhere in between

There is a Korean phrase that translates literally to “hand taste.” It is used to describe the special taste of food so delicious and comforting that someone must have made it with their loving hands, like a meal your mother would make for you.

One of my teachers at language school taught me that phrase at my first lunar new year celebration while she was teaching us how to fold dumplings. That day she also told me I was sure to have adorable babies because I made beautiful dumplings, and I like to think she was right. She used to mother me quite a bit and with every firm pat on the back or hot mug of barley tea to soothe my anxious stomach I could feel the love flowing from her hands.

One drizzly October morning she cried with me under the fluorescent lights in her office while her coffee brewed. I didn’t grow up with Korean food, but it is now my comfort food because of my wonderful teaching team, and especially her. Every time I make this dish, I think of her and the love she showed me that morning when she squeezed my hands in hers.

Japchae is a stir-fried Korean vegetable and noodle dish that is delectable hot, cold and everywhere in between, making it the queen of parties and potlucks. My version is also gluten free and vegan so it will be safe to eat even after a few hours on a picnic table.

I bought everything you need for this recipe at the Kenai Safeway.

Ingredients:

3 packages Korean sweet potato starch noodles (find them in the international aisle near the rice noodles)

1 white onion

1 large carrot

5 stalks green onion

2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms (sometimes you can find them fresh, but if not, you can find bags of dehydrated ones in the same aisle as the noodles. Just soak them in warm water for 30 minutes and squeeze the water out before using. Use two bags for this recipe.)

1 red bell pepper

1 bunch fresh spinach (not baby spinach unless you must)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

¼ cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon honey (I know it’s not technically vegan so use an equal amount of agave or sugar if you prefer.)

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ tablespoon sesame seeds

Salt to taste

Directions:

Boil your noodles for 7 minutes or until soft and springy, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Strain and put into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon sesame oil over the noodles and toss to coat so they don’t stick together.

Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute then cool under cold, running water. Squeeze the excess water out and toss into the oiled noodles.

Prep your vegetables by cutting them all into 2-inch-long, ¼-inch-thick strips, keeping everything separated.

Mix the soy sauce, garlic, honey, pepper, sesame seeds and remaining sesame oil together and set aside.

Saute the vegetables just until soft in a little vegetable oil, one ingredient at a time, in this order: onion, carrot, red bell pepper, mushrooms. Lightly salt each batch and make sure to wipe out the pan with a damp paper towel in between each ingredient. The order and the clean pan are important to keep all the colors and flavors bright.

Put all the ingredients into the large mixing bowl, drizzle the sauce over everything and get to mixing. It’s best to use your clean hands to do this so everything gets thoroughly mixed without being crushed. If you’re sharing with a group, I suggest wearing gloves.

Taste and season with extra salt and pepper if you wish.

This recipe makes enough to bring to a party so cut the recipe in half for a family serving.

Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.

More in Life

Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion 
Kathy Matta’s lacquer art pieces are seen on display Tuesday at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. Below, Kathy Matta discusses her artwork.
Language of lacquer

Artist honors professor’s legacy with local exhibition

Scrambled Eggs A La Escoffier (Photo by Tressa Dale)
Scrambled eggs the Escoffier way

For the last few months of culinary school, my class was given… Continue reading

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Once bitten

Just keep moving. For some people, it might be a mantra for… Continue reading

Joan Brown Dodd, left, and Doug Dodd pose for a photo at the Homer News on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
‘Hero Unaware’ based on author’s compilation of father’s war correspondence.

Letters home span the entire length of World War II from a Navy corpsman’s perspective.

Mindful ramen. (Photo by Tressa Dale/For the Clarion)
Take guilt off menu with mindful ramen

I do a lot of preaching about healthy eating, but I have… Continue reading

Bonnie Marie Playle (file)
July Musings

July is the seventh month, and is called “Dog Days” because it’s… Continue reading

2007 photo by Clark Fair 
Sometimes called “Murder House” in the years after the killing, this dilapidated Quonset hut was the scene of the crime.
A killing close to home

By Clark Fair For the Peninsula Clarion We all hope we live… Continue reading

The stage for "Grounded" is seen inside of the Kenai Performers’ black box theatre on Monday, March 15 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Presenting Little Mermaid

Kenai Performers youth drama camp takes center stage

This rich Parmesan risotto makes a creamy base for mushrooms and kale. Photographed July 10, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Kale salad? Not so much

A cream risotto makes an indulgent base for the nutritional green

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: The generations … my how they flow by

It has been over 20 years since we had a 1-year-old in the house for any extended period of time.

This orange Julius swaps out the traditional egg whites with sweetened condensed milk, for a tangy and safe summer treat. Photographed July 4, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Adding some orange to the red, white and blue

A quintessentially American drink cools off any Fourth of July celebration.

Nick Varney (courtesy)
Flying fish and lead. Oh my!

Homer can become rather rowdy at times.