John and I were in Seoul, Korea in March 2013 where we took a cooking class at O’ngo FoodCommunications, www.ongofood.com. One of the recipes we learned to make was Mushroom Japchae, a popular Korean dish that is often served at birthdays. Literally translated ‘japchae’ means ‘stir fried vegetables.’ Japchae has been popular since the 1600s when one the king’s subjects created the dish for a special occasion. The dish so pleased the king that the man was elevated to Secretary of the Treasury. Typically it is usually served as a side dish but it can also be used as a main dish. In Korea a meal consists of several dishes that are placed on the table and people help themselves using their chopsticks to serve themselves.
John and I have learned but not mastered the use of chopsticks. Most places will supply westerners with silverware. In Korea a spoon accompanies the chopsticks and is used for wet items and for rice. Unlike other Asian countries lifting a bowl of rice to the mouth and using the chopstick to push the rice into one’s mouth is not the usual practice in Korea. Use the spoon.Chopsticks are placed to the right of the plate pointed away from the table edge. When not in use the chopsticks should be placed on the rest that is provide thus avoiding dirtying the table or rolling off the table. Putting chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice is impolite as it looks similar to incense sticks thus reminding people of a funeral dinner when it represents the spirits of the dead eating the food. When the incense burns down then the spirits are full.
I love the saying I read years ago but cannot attribute it an author. One-third of the world eats with chopsticks, one-third with their fingers, and one-third with silverware – and everyone is doing it correctly.
1 ½ (one and one half) tbsp soy sauce
½ (one half) tbsp sugar
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp finely chopped scallion
1 tsp sesame oil
½ (one half) tsp sesame seed
½ (one half) tsp crushed ginger
1 shitake mushroom, Julianne
2 dried wood ear mushrooms, soak in hot water for 5 minutes
1 oz glass noodles
1 medium onion, Julianne
1 medium carrot, Julianne
1 oz small leaf spinach (can use arugula), Julianne
Mix the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, scallions, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and ginger to make the sauce. Marinate shitake mushroom in 1 tsp of sauce for 10 minutes. Boil glass noodles for six minutes then rinse with cold water then set aside. Sauté onions and carrots until tender – about two minutes. Remove from pan then in same pan sauté shitake and wood ear mushrooms. In pan add cooked noodles, sauce, spinach and all the rest of the ingredients. Sauté for 2 or 3 minutes. Other mushrooms can be used plus zucchini and asparagus can be added.