Monday, October 31, 2011

Korean Stir-fried Glass Noodle (Vegan Japchae)

I love this dish!  I was first introduced to it in a potluck before I became a vegetarian.  I didn't know the name of the dish but I knew I liked it.  Then, after I became a vegetarian, I saw this dish at Korean markets, packaged in clear plastic containers.  In Korean markets, there is hardly any label or sign in English on the containers.  Again, I still didn't know the name of this dish.  I was afraid to buy it since I was not sure whether beef, shrimp, or chicken broth was used in the cooking process. 

This year I encountered a vegan Korean blog(the one and only, I think): The Vegan 8 Korean.  I love this blog and recommend it to you to check it out if you like Korean dishes.  Voila!  I saw the recipe of the mystery dish and tried it.  It was very good!  This dish is called Japchae.  It is a dish that Koreans brought to parties, potlucks, and community events. The glass noodle is made of sweet potato flour and this kind of noodle is called Dangmyun (as pictured). 

Now, I really appreciate that Sunnie from The Vegan 8 Korean took a picture of the Dangmyun.  Otherwise, I would not have known how to find it in the Korean market.  As I said, usually, there is no translation on Korean products so I am often at lost trying to find the ingredient. As you can see there is no English name on the package although there is a picture of the dish  on the package which helped.
This is different than the Chinese Bean Thread noodle or cellophane noodle that is made of mung bean starch.  The Dangmyun is thicker and stronger.

I also didn't understand why Sunnie stir fried each vegetable individually after each vegetable is cut into matchsticks.   I thought that it will be quicker to do them all together.   I did more research on Japchae and found out the reason from this blog: Herbivoracious who invited a friend, Alice of Savory Sweet Life, to blog about vegetarian Japchae.  She says the following about stir frying each vegetable individually:

"My mother taught me the importance of making sure to stir-fry each ingredient individually.  One could easily be tempted to add all the vegetables at once and fry them together.  But by frying them individually, the flavor and color of each vegetable is preserved without any cross blending of the other ingredients.  As a result, the frying pan becomes more seasoned as layers of umami build on each other.  The final dish is a beautiful medley of noodles, colorful vegetables, and tofu. From an aesthetic point of view jap chae is one of the most beautiful dishes in Korean cuisine."

Right on!  Thanks Alice for the tip.   I agree that this dish is colorful and umami-ful.    I also learned that by reading blogs, I can learn a lot about cooking and ethnicity of a dish.  It is so much fun!

Below is my version of Japchae with Soy Curls.  It is optional for using soy curls. I often make this dish without soy curls, but I think by now, vegetarians and vegans should all learn about how great Soy Curls can be.

Vegan Japchae with Soy Curls (Korean Stir-Fried Glass Noodle)

1/2 pkg. or 4 oz Soy Curls ,soaked in 1 1/4 cup hot water
1 Tbsp. veg broth powder (preferrably not salty one like Chiknish)
2 Tbsp. Hoisin Sauce or Teriyaki sauce
1/2 pkg. or 8.5 oz Dry Sweet Potato Starch Noodle or Dangmyun
Note:  The package I bought is 17.5 oz and I used only  half  a package
1 cup sliced fresh shitake mushroom (I prefer to use fresh but you can use dried shitake mushroom and soaked in hot water for 15-20 minutes)
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper medium size, sliced into matchsticks
1 medium onions, sliced
4 green onions, sliced
3 tsp. minced garlic
salt to sprinkle for each vegetable when stir frying
1 tsp. soy sauce to cook with shitake mushroom
5 Tbsp. soy sauce (less sodium kind)
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. black pepper (freshly ground)
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 tsp. roasted sesame seeds

3 tsp. vegetable oil

  1. Prepare soy curls by soaking it in hot water for 10 minutes, squeezed the water out, add chiknish or non-salty veg powder.  Then, add the hoisin sauce or teriyaki sauce to marinade.  Set aside.
  2. Boil the dangmyun in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Drain, pour cold tap water to stop the cooking process.  Then, drain again. Immediately add 5 tablespoon soy sauce, black pepper, and 2 tsp. sugar into the drained glass noodles and combine thoroughly.
  3. If using dried shitake mushroom, soak the mushroom in warm water for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While waiting for soy curls to marinade and noodle to cool, slice the vegetables.  Drain and slice the soaked mushrooms also.
    Stir frying soy curls in my old Chinese wok.
  6. Coat a wok or large frying pan with 1 tsp oil.  Put it on a high heat and start with the soy curls.  When soy curl is dry and brown, remove from wok and set aside.
  7. Add onions to the wok. Sprinkle with a little salt, stir fry for 4-5 minutes until translucent.  Remove from wok.  Set aside.  Repeat this process each separately with carrot, red bell pepper, spinach, and green onions.  Everytime, sprinkle a little salt and stir fry until vegetables are cooked.  Add a little water if vegetable sticks to the wok.  You will notice that brown bits are forming in your wok and loosen up when you add water.  That actually adds flavor to the veggies.  When stir frying the sliced mushrooms, add the 1 tsp. soy sauce instead of salt.  Combine and set aside all cooked vegetables onto a large plate.
    This is what the cooked vegetable looks like when combined together.
  9. Add the rest of the oil (2 tsp.) to the hot wok.  Then, add the minced garlic, stir fry for 1 minute until fragrant, keep stirring to avoid burning.
  10. Add the vegetables, soy curls, and seasoned noodles back to the wok and combine well. Stir fry for a few minutes until noodles are heated through.
  11. Turn off heat.  Add sesame oil, stir, and combine well.  Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds when serving.

All ingredients combined together and stir fried.

This noodle dish is good at room temperature too.  It is a great dish to bring to a potluck.  DH brought this dish to his potluck at work and he didn't have to reheat it before serving it.  He said that people at his work loved it and a few asked for the recipe.
The Koreans also serve this dish as Banchan which are dishes in small plates (such as tapas) that are served with cooked/steamed rice.  Most of these dishes on small plates are served in room temperature also.
This will be the next dish I will bring to a potluck at work.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

5-Colors Bowl and Vegan Furikake

This bowl is inspired by my recent trip to Portland, OR.  I was brought to Cafe Yum by my friends Yongkie and Pokie.   The bowl that I ate at Cafe Yum, Jazzy bowl, was good but I thought the sauce was kind of too rich.   Then, Yongkie offered to make similar bowl at his home and he made Miso Ginger sauce instead of the rich sauce at Cafe Yum.  I like the bowl he served me.  The sauce was lighter and sweeter than what I had in Cafe Yum.  He served brown rice topped with black beans, chopped tomatoes, black olives, avocado, onion, and cilantro. It was yummy! Of course, later on I visited Native Bowl and ate more bowls of goodness (Couch Bowl and Mississippi Bowl).   I love 'the bowl' concept and was first introduced to it by visiting Native Foods where I tried Soul Bowl, Gandhi Bowl, Hollywood Bowl, etc.

The concept of a bowl is to have some kind of grain, protein, vegetables, seeds/nuts, other savory toppings, and sauce in one bowl.  The grain can be brown rice, quinoa, bulghur, millets, coucous, or any other grain.  The protein can be tofu, tempeh, all kind of beans,  and seitan.  You can use your imagination what kind of vegetables to put in your bowl, there are plenty.  The vegetables can be raw, steamed or roasted.   Any kind of roasted or raw seed /nuts can be added into the bowl.   Now, the secret is in the SAUCE!

5-Colors ingredients.
 I came up with this 5-colors bowl because I think that when we eat, we start with our eyes.  If the food is colorful, it is appetizing.  This bowl is colorful, fresh, and healthy.  The 5 colors are yellow, red, green, black, and brown.   I also think that this is an Asian Fusion dish which means that there are some Asian elements in it such as Adzuki beans, Sticky brown rice, Miso ginger sauce and Furikake.  Asian dish usually doesn't incorporate avocado, chopped tomatoes, and black olives such as a Mexican dish.  I can say that this is Japanese Mexican dish? Below is my own Miso Ginger Sauce recipe to go with the colorful bowl.

Miso Ginger Sauce

2 tsp. canola oil
1Tbsp.  fresh grated ginger
1/4 water
1/4 rice vinegar
1/4 white miso
      Note:  I use South River Organic Chickpea Miso
2 Tbsp. Hon Mirin
1 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
1 tsp. sesame oil
Optional: to thicken the sauce mix 2 tsp Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour with 1 tbsp water, add the to sauce, simmer for 1 minute.

  1. Heat oil in a small sauce pan, then, add the fresh grated ginger.  Saute for a few minutes until fragant.
  2. Add water, rice vinegar, and white miso.  Using a whisk, mix it together until miso is breaking down and sauce is simmering.  Simmer for 2 minutes.  If a thicker sauce is preferred, you can add the rice flour and water mixture to thicken it.
  3. Take it off heat, add mirin, agave nectar, and sesame oil.  Note: Since my miso is not smooth, I use a hand blender (stick blender) to mix the sauce together into a smooth light brown sauce.  Some miso is already smooth and this step is not necessary.
5-Colors Bowl (makes 4 bowls)

3-4 cups steamed brown rice ( I use My Perfect Brown Rice for this recipe)
2 cups steamed Butternut Squash (cubed)
           Note:  I bought cubed and peeled butternut squash from Trader Joe's as a shortcut. 
1 can 15 oz. cooked Adzuki Beans
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 avocado, peeled, sliced/chopped, about 1 cup
   Note:  I happen to buy an organic Reed Avocado (pictured above)
1 small 8 oz.  sliced black olives
3 green onions/scallions, chopped
Miso Ginger Sauce (recipe above)
Vegan Furikake (recipe below), optional 
   Note: if you don't like seaweed, you can add toasted sesame seeds only, brown or black.

    Drizzle the Miso Ginger Sauce on top of rice.
  1. Scoop about 1 cup of steamed rice onto a bowl and drizzle with Miso Ginger sauce.
  2. Add 1/4 cup cubed steamed butternut squash, adzuki beans, chopped tomatoes, sliced/chopped avocado, and sliced black olives.
  3. Drizzle with more sauce.
  4. Top with chopped scallions and vegan furikake(optional).
  5. 5-Colors Bowl with Miso Ginger Sauce, all mixed together.

This bowl has all kind of flavors: sweet, tangy, hearty, fresh, and salty.  The furikake adds 'seafoody' flavor to it, too.

Furikake  (Japanese rice seasonings) usually contains shaved bonito (fish flakes) if you buy it commercially at a Japanese market.  It also may contain MSG (monosodium glutamate).  I make it myself at home to avoid these ingredients.  If you like seaweed and sushi, usually, you'll like furikake.  Below is my vegan furikake recipe:

Vegan Furikake
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. Vegetarian Seasoning (Mushroom Seasoning, pictured below)
 Note: Mushroom seasoning can be bought at Asian markets.  Nowadays,  it is hard to find one that has no MSG in it.  I particularly like this brand which contains no MSG, not too salty,  and also vegan.  If you cannot find mushroom seasoning, you can use nutritional yeast or your favorite dry vegan broth powder.

2 Tbsp.  Toasted Sesame Seeds (or more if you like)
3-4  large Toasted Seaweed (seaweed sheet for making sushi) or Seasoned Seaweed Lavers (Korean seaweed snacks, cut into large pieces
Salt to taste
Note: Some mushroom seasoning or broth powder has a lot of salt.  You may want to taste first before adding salt.

  1. Combine sugar, veg. broth powder, sesame seeds, seaweed pieces in a DRY food processor.
  2. Pulse or run food processor until seaweed is broken into tiny pieces.  The mixture should be dry(pictured below).  Store in a dry and tight container such as a glass jar, a tight tupperware, or a dry spice jar for an easy sprinkle.

I often have a snack of seaweed laver, topped with steamed brown rice,  steamed veggie (in this case it was some butternut squash) and sprinkled with my vegan furikake.  Roll it up like a sushi!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Leeky Lentil Vegetable Soup

One boring day I was watching a Food TV Network show Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten.  She was cooking Lentil Vegetable soup with a lot of onions and leeks.  It looks so good that I was inspired to veganize it.  It was not hard to do that.  We love this soup so much that I made it twice now.

DH told me that when he was heating the soup at work, co-workers gave comments of how delicious the aroma of this soup.  I think that the sauteed leeks and onions gave that aroma.  I would like to share my own veganized version.  This soup is filling, warm, hearty, and was easy to make.

Leeky Lentil Vegetable Soup

1 1/2 cup dry green/brown lentils
1 white/brown onion, about 2 cups diced
1 large leek, white part only, about 2.5 cups diced
   Note: Clean leeks thoroughly by submerging them in cold water and swish around to get rid of all the dirt
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves or 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 cup diced celery
1 1/2 cup diced carrots
7 cups vegetarian chicken stock
   Note:  I use Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base by Superior Touch  
1 can or 15 oz organic diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or red wine

  1. Cover dry lentils with enough boiling water (water is about 1 inch above the lentils) in a bowl.  Set it aside for at least 15 minutes.  This allow lentils to soften.
  2. Dice vegetables: onions, leeks, celery, and carrots.
  3.  In a stockpot, saute onions, leeks, and garlic in the olive oil.
  4. Add spices: thyme, cumin, and black pepper, continue to saute about 15 minutes until vegetables are translucent and tender.
  5. Add celery and carrots and saute 10 more minutes.
  6. Add vegetable stock and lentils.  Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until lentils are cooked through.
  7. Add the diced tomatoes including the juice.  Simmer 10 more minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, check for salt.  Since I am using a salted vegetarian broth, usually, I don't need to add more salt.  I leave it up to you to judge how much salt to add, if any.
  9. Lastly,  add the red wine vinegar or red wine.  Serve it hot with whole grain bread or roll.
Fall is here and I think it is soup time!

My Perfect Brown Rice

This is my perfect brown rice.  I have been trying to cook this kind of brown rice since I discovered it in a vegan Vietnamese restaurant and finally I got the recipe.  This is a perfect brown rice to eat with Asian dishes (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Cambodian) if you want to avoid eating white rice.  For an Indian, American, or Middle Eastern dish, I still prefer the long grain brown basmati or regular long or short grain brown rice.

I discovered what I called 'my perfect brown rice'  when we started dining at Thuyen Vien, a vegan Vietnamese restaurant in Anaheim, CA.  It's a great restaurant and  it received a high rating at Yelp from vegetarians, vegans, and non-vegetarians customers.  The owners of the restaurant, a husband and wife, Si and Loan(Laura) are great cooks.  I fell in love with their brown rice which looks like the picture above.  He doesn't share restaurant's secret though.  Si just said it is made of 3 kind of rice.  Hmmm....what kind and what is the ratio of the 3?   I have to break the secret (which is challenging in itself) and try and try  a  recipe I created my own.  I  kept combining 3 different kinds of  rice and finally I can resemble what they have.  I think I got it pretty close.  :-)

This rice is sticky, soft, and aromatic.  Asians like to eat rice with those characteristics.  That is why most of them opt to have white jasmine rice or sweet sticky rice in restaurants.  They like to mold their rice in a bowl and invert it onto a plate like the picture above.  You'll notice some Asian restaurants do it that way, or some put the rice in a big rice container, and some serve it in small rice bowls.  Hence, most of the time the rice is sticky and aromatic.  Since I try not to eat white rice anymore, it is not possible to replace the sticky and aromatic of white Jasmine rice with regular long grain brown rice.  It is not the same.  When eating Asian dishes, I want to have the same characteristics of eating my dish with the white and aromatic Jasmine rice.

The 3 kinds of rice I use are long grain brown Jasmine rice, sweet brown rice (not short grain brown rice), and red Bhutanese rice or Wehani Rice or Thai Red Rice.    The sweet brown rice adds the stickiness.  The brown Jasmine rice adds the aromatic characteristic.  The red rice adds the nice color to it.  All 3 have awesome nutritional values.  It is much better for your health to eat brown rice than any white rice.  Wehani rice usually costs much more.  I prefer the Thai red rice that I purchased in an Asian market for about $6 per 5 lbs. bag.
I also purchased an expensive rice cooker to cook them with.   This is my favorite kitchen appliance that I left out on the kitchen counter instead of storing it in the cupboard.  I use it ALL the time since I cook rice every week and sometimes 2 to 3 times a week.  What's great about this rice cooker is that it has 2 timers.  With the timer, I can measure the rice and water in the morning and set the timer so when I get home from work the brown rice is ready to eat.  Cooking brown rice takes about 45 minutes.   This appliance saves me a lot of time.

Of course, you don't have to buy an expensive rice cooker and can manually cook rice with a pot on stove-top.  Especially, if you don't cook rice all the time.  However, I will recommend that the rice is soaked for about 6-8 hours if you want it soft and sticky.  I measure and put the water in the morning so the rice was soaked in water for about 6 hours before the machine started cooking.

My Perfect Brown rice

1/3 cup Long Grain Brown rice
1/3 cup Sweet Brown Rice (not short grain brown rice)
1/3 cup Wehani, Bhutanese, or Thai Red Rice
2 cups of water

Combine rice in a pot and add water.  Let it soak for about 6-8 hours.
Turn on heat until water is boiling, turn it down to simmer, and set timer for 45 minutes.
If you have a rice cooker,  measure 1/3 of each type of rice with your rice cooker measuring cup, add enough water until it reach the 'Brown Rice'  level.  If you have a timer, set the timer.  If you don't, I suggest soaking the rice for 6-8 hours.  Then, click the Start button (it is that easy!).

I use this rice in a dish I prepared recently.  The rice is in the bottom of the bowl, topped with Korean Pepper Paste sauce (gochujang sauce), pan fried tofu, fresh spinach, shredded carrots, chopped and fresh snap peas, sliced green onions, more sauce, and roasted sesame seeds.  This is called Couch (pronounced Kooch) Bowl from Native Bowl.
I recently visited Portland, OR and had a chance to try Couch Bowl at Native Bowl.  I like it so much that when I got home I want to replicate the dish and share it with DH.  You can find the recipe of this Couch Bowl hereJulie Hasson is the chef of Native Bowl and was featured in Veg Edge in Cooking Channel by which she presented this delicious bowl. 

Enjoy My Perfect Brown rice with any Asian dish, Chinese food left over, Thai curry, or Vietnamese stir fry!  When you in Anaheim, CA, please visit Thuyen Vien and let me know if my rice is pretty close to what they have.  Also, try that Couch Bowl at Native Bowl, either visit them in Portland, OR or make it for yourself at home.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Remodeled Kitchen

Welcome to my remodeled kitchen! This blog is long overdue for an update. I know, I know. Actually, the remodeled kitchen was finished back in January 2010. Then, we thought that our living room and dining room needed a remodeling. It was in the 1970s style and we didn't do any remodeling since we moved in (1993). So we did that. Then, we thought our downstairs bathroom also needed a remodeling. Almost the entire house was still in 1970s style. So we did that. Then, we thought that our bedrooms and master bathroom really needed a remodeling (wall paper and paint were peeling). So we did that. Then, we thought our 1970s carpet desperately needed to be replaced. So we did that. There you go. This is how it is with remodeling. We started with one room and it just went on and on to the next rooms. In 2010 and a big part of 2011, I spent a lot of time working with contractors and painters. I don't know how many times I visited Lowes, Home Depot, and other appliances store. I was out of my habit of blogging. I became an interior decorator instead. It is now all DONE! :-)

Friends have been asking me about my blog and pictures of my new kitchen. Here they are. The fun of rebuilding my own kitchen was designing the work space, cabinets, colors, granite, etc. I picked the cabinet and other kitchen features, DH picked the granite.

Not all of the appliances were replaced to keep the cost down. I still kept my older stove, refrigerator, and dish washer. They are still working fine. They are not stainless steel but when we replace them we might choose stainless steel in the future. Our new range-hood is stainless steel. It is a powerful GE Monogram brand.

The other appliance we added was the microwave/convection oven/speed cook GE Profile Advantium. We love this one since we have always owned on-top-of-the-counter microwave. This one is a built-in one to free the counter space. It is also a combination of a microwave and convection oven for my cookies and bread baking. This oven has a bread-proofing feature I can use to raise my bread dough. The temperature is all controlled by a computer chip. I love it!

The kitchen features that I requested from our contractor were the ones that will make my cooking easier. It is more on the functional and not just aesthetic request. First, I need a lot of storage for spices, condiments bottles, and small kitchen appliances. DH says that he never met anyone owns so many different spices and condiments until he met me. Below is the condiments rack I ordered from the cabinet maker. It stores many bottles of condiments, sauces, and oil. I can pull out this rack to choose a condiment or sauce or oil I need.

Then, for my spices I asked for another pull-out shelves below to store my many spices.

I also asked for pull-out shelves like this one below to store my small kitchen appliances (food processor, juicer, panini maker, mixer, etc.). Contractor guaranteed that these shelves will support and hold heavy items. I have no problem so far, he was right. I love this feature!

For the corner areas of the kitchen, I asked for rotating shelves for my pots, pans, and baking pans. This kind of storage was also good for bulk storage for rice, flours, and grains. This particular one below is the top corner storage. I have 3 more bottom corner ones with rotating shelves.

The last feature I wanted to share is in the sink area. Our contractor suggested that the button to turn on and off our garbage disposal be moved near to our faucet. The silver button on the right of the faucet is now the button for the garbage disposal. Very convenient!

We also ask for a customized feature of a hot and room temperature filtered drinking water faucet (the smaller faucet below) to be installed here in the sink area. We constantly drink hot tea. I also use a lot of hot water to soak TVP, soy curls, beans, lentils, etc. so a constant hot water access is always needed. We use this water drinking faucet a lot. The room temperature water is also connected to the ice machine in our fridge. This is a feature that is definitely useful and worth it.

We also remodeled our dining room which is connected to the kitchen. I chose the colors, furniture, and decorations. It is now all updated to modern style and is not 1970s style anymore. All I can say that I am happy that it is ALL done. I can have my life back with more cooking and traveling without worrying that I need to go back to Lowes or Home Depot to exchange the shower head, cabinet knobs, or light switches. I admit that I will not do it again. We'll sell this one and buy a remodeled house. :-) Wowee, a relief indeed!