Japchae: A quick and easy side dish

Hey, everyone! This week, I really wanted to share a dish that is perfect for the summer. When it starts to get warm out, I find myself making all sorts of picnic foods to enjoy outside. I live right near Ridley Creek State Park, and whenever I have a free moment, I like to go for hikes and a quick picnic. The dishes I usually gravitate towards are ones that are especially tasty at room temperature. I like to have many options while eating, but, when I’m hiking, it isn’t always practical to bring loads of side dishes. One thing that I really like to do is make a dish that has many ingredients and can tide me over until I get back home. Stir-fries or ploughman’s lunches are always a great choice for outdoor eating. One recipe in particular that I really enjoy is called Japchae.

Japchae is a side dish from South Korea that is made up of sweet potato noodles, beef, a variety of mushrooms, and other vegetables. Especially during this time of year, when vegetables are flavorful and fresh, this dish really highlights each ingredient. I first came across this dish when I met my wife, Minju. I was amazed at how each flavor was preserved and the cooking procedure that went along with this. There is a very specific way to make Japchae, and each ingredient must be cooked separately according to its color and how long it takes to cook. This procedural cooking process, in my opinion, makes each flavor truly independent but in harmony with the others. Oftentimes, the flavor of a vegetable gets lost in the cooking process, but this does not seem to be the case with properly made Japchae.

The best Japchae I have ever had was at my wife’s family’s house in Seoul, South Korea. I was lucky enough to make a trip last August and experienced such an amazing and beautiful culture in person. I was amazed at how much care my jangmonim (mother-in-law) put into her cooking and how incredible her ingredients were. She served an enormous mixing bowl’s worth of Japchae that night, and it was accompanied by numerous side dishes and my jangin eoreun’s (father-in-law’s) homemade grape wine. I hope that you enjoy this recipe and that it shows just how versatile a handful of vegetables can really be!

Ingredients:
• 1 pound top round beef, sliced
• 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
• ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon mirin
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 large onion, julienne
• 1 cup oyster mushrooms, torn
• 1 cup fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, baton
• 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
• 350 grams dry sweet potato noodles
• 3 cups baby spinach
• 1 large carrot, julienne
• 1 red bell pepper, julienne
• 1 jalapeño pepper, ¼ moons
• Grapeseed oil or favorite high-heat cooking oil, as needed

Japchae ingredients

Procedure:
• Slice beef thinly and marinate first six ingredients for up to 24 hours. (Use only ½ the sugar and ¼ cup soy sauce for marinade.)
• Prepare vegetables and arrange so that they are separated and easily accessible.
• Set up a 12-inch sauté pan, a large mixing bowl, and a pot of boiling, salted water.
• Soak sweet potato noodles in cold water for 20 minutes.
• Blanch spinach, only so that it wilts and turns a vibrant, green color (15-30 seconds).
• Squeeze the liquid out of the spinach so that the color doesn’t run.
• At medium-high heat, cook beef, onions, garlic, and marinade in sauté pan.
• Once beef is cooked throughout, remove from pan.
• Remove remaining ingredients and sauce from pan once onions are tender.
• Add mushrooms to pan, along with enough oil to stir fry.
• Once mushrooms are cooked and pan is deglazed, remove from pan.
• Add carrots to pan with more oil, if needed.
• Remove carrots from pan once tender.
• Add red pepper to pan with more oil, if needed.
• After sweating the pepper, add the jalapeño, and cook until both are tender yet slightly crunchy.
• Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and hold.
• Transfer noodles to boiling water, and cook until tender but chewy.
• Rinse the noodles in cold water and drain.
• Add the noodles to the mixing bowl, and cut in half with scissors, if necessary.
• Add remaining sugar, toasted sesame seed oil, and soy sauce.
• With gloved hands, mix the sweet potato noodle stir-fry until combined.
• Serve immediately, or refrigerate and reheat.

A delicious stir-fry dinner ready to eat!

Some important things to note for Japchae are that the vegetables should still be slightly crunchy. As with any stir-fry, you do not want mushy, overcooked vegetables. The contrast in textures and flavors in this dish is very satisfying and is partially what makes it so great. Another tip for good Japchae is not to overcook the beef, as it will get very chewy. Finally, good temperature control in your sauté pan is essential to the outcome of this dish. You do not want to brown or add color to the vegetables. This dish is meant to be vibrant and bursting with fresh, defined colors.

This stir-fry goes really well with most foods and can also be a great side dish. In Korea, it is customary to use the wood ear and shiitake mushrooms for this dish. Wood ear mushrooms are thin and wavy black mushrooms that have a distinct but mild flavor. You can buy them dried at most Asian supermarkets. Because of the fact that it is less accessible and more expensive than other mushroom types, I like to use torn oyster mushrooms instead of the wood ear. This recipe can easily be doubled or adjusted for how many people are eating, so I hope that you enjoy it on your own or try making it for a potluck!

-Steven Walsh, Walnut Hill College Student Leader

Read Steven’s bio


Celebrate Cinco de “May-o” with these delicious mayonnaise recipes!

By Steven Walsh

Hey, everyone! My name is Steven Walsh, and you’re currently reading the new WHC Food Blog. In this, I hope to show some of the recipes and techniques that I use at home and have used in professional settings. I, as well as lots of others here, love to cook and am passionate about food. Since starting at Walnut Hill College, I’ve wanted to create a forum and blog that allows people to communicate and share the things they love. As I learn more on my culinary journey, I aim to share what I like best with everyone reading. There are few things that I am not fond of, but there is nothing that I won’t try. I’m really excited to get this started, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and comments once this takes off. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!

This week, I wanted to share two recipes that I use a lot at home. Despite my lack of pastry experience, this is partially a post about baking! To start though, I’ll be sharing a mayonnaise recipe that completely changed my mind about mayo.

Growing up, there were no ifs, ands, or buts, I hated mayonnaise. I didn’t like the concept, and I sure didn’t like the taste. Something seemed to be bitter or rancid every time I tried it, so I stopped trying it. As all of us do, I expanded my palate as I grew up and began to tolerate mayonnaise. It still wasn’t my preference, but it seemed like an alright substitute for butter on a sandwich. This opinion of mine would be completely flipped as I started to learn more about mayonnaise. As I began my education at WHC, I was given the task many times to make mayonnaise. Each time I made it, I liked it, but there was always that background rancid flavor. I had finally had enough and started to do some research on different oils and their properties. After playing around with different ideas, to make a long story short, I began to realize that the heat tolerance and neutral flavor of the oil was what had the biggest impact on the mayonnaise’s outcome. I wanted to test this, so I used my all-time favorite high-heat cooking oil, grapeseed oil.

“Whoa.” This was all I could think after what had just happened. It was a Saturday that I had off from work, and I was playing around in the kitchen as I often do. With the thoughts of grapeseed oil still fresh in my mind, I substituted the usual canola oil with it and made my mayonnaise. As a disclosure, I have tools at home that not everyone may have access to in a home kitchen. However, these recipes are adaptable, and I will always do my best to provide alternative methods. 😊

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Procedure:

  • Add ¼ cup of grapeseed oil, egg, mustard powder, and salt into food processor.
  • Blend until smooth and pale (20-30 seconds).
  • Add remaining oil in a continuous, thin stream while still blending.
  • Once finished with the oil, add the lemon juice and blend only to combine.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as preferred.
Make your own delicious homemade mayonnaise today!

I was instantly in love with this recipe. Food processor mayonnaise is a great way to save time and energy when making mayo. I actually like to use my whisk attachment on my stick blender to make this. I add the ingredients to a blender cup and use the electric whisk instead of a food processor. This recipe is really versatile, and I love using it for different things. I use it for cakes, dipping sauces, salad dressings, and more! One of my favorite mayonnaise recipes is my double chocolate mayo cake. I use small loaf tins for baking the cake and slice the cakes for dessert with some ice cream and fresh fruit!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup grapeseed oil mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I use Ghirardelli)

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Whisk together mayonnaise, vanilla, milk, and water.
  • Combine salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, and baking powder into dry ingredients.
  • Evenly mix with a dry, wooden spoon.
  • In three stages, incorporate your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients.
  • Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Oil 4 mini loaf tins with vegetable oil.
  • Cut strips of parchment paper long enough so that they hang out of the tins.
  • Evenly pour the batter into the tins and smooth for even baking.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool and serve.
Double Chocolate Mayo Cake

There are so many variations that can be made to both of these recipes, and I hope you get a chance to try them out. I would love to hear feedback, and pictures of cake and mayo are obviously welcome!

-Steven Walsh, Walnut Hill College Student Leader

Read Steven’s bio


Walnut Hill College Pride

Education is our pride and joy. For over 40 years, Walnut Hill College has been dedicated to teaching the future leaders in fine dining and hospitality. Whether they’re working in the front or the back of the house during service in our four restaurants or learning the ins and outs of the business in our management classes, our students receive real-world training that prepares them for success in their chosen career field.
Walnut Hill College is a boutique college with a specific focus on culinary, pastry, and hospitality training. The small size of the college allows our students to truly hone their craft with specialized instruction and more personal guidance from our instructors than larger institutions can provide. Because of this, WHC is like a family, and we relish the relationships that we develop with our students while they’re with us and that we maintain for years after they graduate.
 
We also take pride in providing product excellence. Everything from the desserts in our pastry shop to the dinners in our restaurants reflects our students’ creativity, diligence, and attention to detail. With each new term of classes, our students strive to improve upon their previous work so that we can offer the public even more innovative and delicious dishes. As our students graduate and move on to pursue their careers, we’re excited to see their talents shine in the industry–and equally as excited to train the next group of culinary, pastry, and hospitality hopefuls at the start of their journey.