Kelp Noodle Japchae – Low Carb Noodle-mania!

Okay folks, I admit, I’ve been a little distracted by the glorious Pacific Northwest summer, traipsing about in the mountains. Between that, work, and other personal projects, feeding the Internet Blog Machine has gotten a little backlogged. So without further ado, here’s one more..

 

Quite some time ago, I went to school in the other Washington -the District of Columbia. While there, I was exposed to the experience of an even more humid climate than my native Midwest summer. Wandering the concrete jungle blocks from my job at a nonprofit and nerd-exciting statistics classes, I was exposed to my first taste of Korean food ever. It was ironically a vegan Korean shop, and my favorite dish was tofu japchae. In retrospect it was an easy gateway crossover from my beloved childhood Cantonese restaurant dish of beef chow fun (see fellow pun lovers’ recipe at Woks of Life, and really, anything noodle. That first taste opened me up to a whole other cuisine full of spicier, more vegetable-filled and bbq-beef-laden meals like dolsot bibimbap and tofu soup!

Fast forward to years later on a warm Seattle summer day, living with some one who eats low carb, and here is my experiment in turning Japchae paleo friendly.

Japchae Ingredients
Japchae Ingredients

Ingredients:
5 oz kelp noodles, like these ones off Amazon
1/2 onion (medium), sliced
1 oz carrot (large carrot), julienned (or in my case, an annoyingly tedious pile of baby carrots, julienned)
½ oz shiitake mushroom (I got fresh ones but you could also use dried ones and rehydrate them beforehand. See Crazy Korean Cooking‘s recipe that inspired this post, for rehydration tips)
3 oz thin-sliced beef (i had shabu shabu meat on hand, sliced it while partially frozen)
2 oz spinach  (did not have on hand, skipped it, although it has been in every japchae I have ever eaten before)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbs vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt to taste
pinch black pepper

Optional: sesame seeds

For seasoning:
2½ tbs soy sauce (for gluten-free use tamari sauce)
2½ tbs sugar
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
½ tsp minced garlic
a pinch black pepper

Steps:

    1. Slice mushrooms and beef into thin strips.
To get really thin slices, cut meat while it is slightly frozen.
To get really thin slices, cut meat while it is slightly frozen.
    1. Marinate beef & mushrooms: in a bowl, mix beef and mushrooms by hand with 2 teaspoons of the seasoning sauce and let it marinate at least for 15 minutes.
Marinade sauce.
Marinade sauce.
    1. Blanch in high heat water 1 minute or sauté spinach (optional), drain out the water. Season spinach with a pinch of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of minced garlic. Mix by hand.
    2. If you weren’t using kelp noodles, this is where you’d cook regular glass noodles, rinse them in cold water, and drain them. With kelp noodles, boiling in water is not necessary.
    3. Coat a frying pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and preheat the pan on high heat for 1 minute. Sauté carrot and onion with a pinch of salt and pepper on high heat for 2-3 minutes or until the carrots are almost cooked. Add more oil if the vegetables start sticking to the pan. Set aside.
Sautéed veggies.
Sautéed veggies.
    1. Coat a frying pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and preheat the pan on high heat for 1 minute. Sauté the marinated beef and shiitake mushrooms until the meat is fully cooked.
Gotta keep 'em se-par-ate-ed.
Gotta keep ’em se-par-ate-ed.
    1. Cut noodles: place fully-drained glass noodles in a big bowl and cut the noodles with scissors. You can just cut a few times randomly just so that noodles are easier to serve. Do not over-cut them.
Cut der noodles. Kitchen scissors work best.
Cut der noodles. Kitchen scissors work best.
    1. Pour the rest of seasoning sauce onto the noodles and mix well.
    2. Add all the sautéed vegetables and beef to the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
Shown here: before being fully mixed.
Shown here: before being fully mixed.
  1. Sauté the noodles mixture on medium heat for 3 minutes or until all the noodles are warm. Stir frequently so noodles don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Taste the noodles and salt to preference. Kelp noodles will soften as they warm and absorb liquids form the other ingredients, you can warm it on low heat if they are still really crunchy.

Optional: Sprinkle sesame seeds as a garnish. Enjoy!

Final product!
Final product!

 

Likelihood of Repeat: 80%

Novelty Rating:
5 of 5
I added some thin-sliced zucchini noodles, which added some more al dente factor while making it taste more like smooth noodles at the same time.

Kelp noodles plus a few stray zucchini noodles.
Kelp noodles plus a few stray zucchini noodles.

Lesson Learned:  It gradually dawned on me as I was making this that if tried this exact kelp noodle brand before to make some cold sesame noodles, to ill effect, making me dread the result of this experiment. When I was disappointed at the crunchiness of the noodles, I said nothing, and my focus group of one was a fan! The kelp noodles had softened as they sat with the warm ingredients between completion time and serving, sucking up some moisture from the other ingredients. Plus, the low carb factor was a strong selling factor.

A closer look at the kelp noodle brand I tried.
A closer look at the kelp noodle brand I tried: not so bad after all.
For comparison: homemade japchae with the standard sweet potato noodles. Yum.
For comparison: homemade japchae with the standard sweet potato noodles. Yum.

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