Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cooking Japchae: My Secret to Forget About Being Homesick in Daegu During Chuseok!

My Secret to Forget About Being Homesick in Daegu During Chuseok!

             It’s almost Chuseok! Chuseok is the longest and one of the most important holidays in South Korea. For those of you who don’t  know about Chuseok, it is most commonly referred to as the Korean thanksgiving day or Hangawi (한가위). To Koreans, Chuseok is a festivity to celebrate good harvest and abundance. For some, it may look like a big family reunion commemorating their ancestors who have passed on.

             In tradition, Koreans visit their hometowns to spend quality time with their family and friends. In the morning, they all wear a hanbok and visit the graves of their ancestors to give thanks. This ceremony is called charye (차례). After the Charye, they sit down together and eat a lot of homemade Korean food usually made by the women of the household. Also, they play different folk games or watch entertaining performances such as yeot (four wooden sticks), samulnori (traditional percussion quartette), talchum (mask dance), ganggangsullae (Korean circle dance), and ssireum (traditional Korean wrestling). For non-Koreans, Chuseok is a great way to learn more about Korean culture.

This year, Chuseok falls on 23rd ~ 26th of September. Usually, I go back to my home country - Philippines. But for this year, I decided to stay in Daegu. It can be a bit depressing and lonely to just stay at home for the holidays, so I thought of cooking Japchae to forget homesickness. My mother and I used to cook this Korean dish together as our family loves the Korean cuisine. Japchae is a Korean dish made from glass noodles with mixed vegetables and normally served as one of the side dishes in a Korean restaurant. It is also one of the most common local dishes served during Chuseok.

Although making Japchae is time consuming, it is very easy to do it by yourself. It is going to be worth it when it’s done. I would like to share with you a step by step guide on how to cook Japchae:


- 3 medium carrots
- 2 medium onions
- 1 pack dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 bundles green onions or onion leeks
- 1 cup bell peppers of different colors (optional)
- 4 eggs
- 2 bundles of spinach
- 1 pack sweet potato glass noodles (called dangmyeon 당면)
- garlic powder or minced garlic
- sugar
- salt
- black pepper
- sesame seed oil
- sesame seeds
- soy sauce
- vegetable or olive oil
* You can buy all the ingredients in any local grocery stores or local markets.

For the vegetables:

1.          Soak and dry shiitake mushrooms for about 2-3 hours.

2.          Cut the bell pepper, carrots and onion into strips.

3.          Add oil to a frying pan, stir-fry the vegetables strips separately for 3-4 minutes and add a pinch of salt. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.

TIP: To give your Japchae more life, use different colors of bell peppers for added beauty and flavor.

4.          Boil water in a saucepan and add the spinach. They can cook easily so you can just turn off the heat after 5 minutes as it will continue to cook. When it’s done cooking, put the spinach in a cold water. Squeeze out the liquid from it and chop it into 2 inches.

5.          Mix the spinach with garlic powder or minced garlic, sesame seed oil, sesame seeds, and soy sauce. Then, add the mixed to the vegetables strips.
6.          Rinse the shitake mushrooms and cut them into strips.
7.          Cut the green onions into sections of 2 inches.

8.          Stir-fry the shiitake mushrooms for 2-3 minutes and add a pinch of salt. Then, add the green onions and fry for another 2 minutes. Set aside with the vegetables strips.

For the egg:

9.  In a small bowl, beat 4 eggs, add a pinch of salt. In a frying pan, add enough oil to cover the whole pan and put the egg mixture to fry.
10. Spread eggs around the pan to make a circle and cook for about 2 minutes. Then flip over and cook for another 1 min. THE CHALLENGE: Try not to break the circle egg!
11.         Lastly, roll the egg cut into strips and then set aside.

For the noodles:

12.  In a large saucepan of boiling water, add the glass noodles and cook for 7-10 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse in a cold water. You may also roughly cut the noodles, if you prefer to eat shorter noodles.

13. In the same large saucepan, add 1 tsp of oil, 3-4 tsp of soy sauce and 3 tsp of water. Add the glass noodles and mix them.

14.        Then, on a separate frying pan, fry the mixed glass noodles for about 2-3 minutes. This is important to fry the noodles to another pan so that they would not get burned easily.

15.        After frying the mixed glass noodles, add them to the vegetable mixture.

16.        In a large bowl with everything set aside and mixed, add another 1/2 cup sesame seed oil, lots of sesame seeds and chia seeds, 4 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and 1 tsp soy sauce. MIX, MIX, MIX!
17.        Lastly, top it with the egg strips.

18.        To add more flavor, you may add more sesame seeds and chia seeds on top. Voila! Enjoy your Japchae!