Monday, April 23, 2012

KOREAN RECIPES: Korean Burdock Root Dishes (2)


“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar.”  This is the golden rule of eating healthy that you might find simply too hard to follow. Then just try to eat like a Buddhist monk; you will get (and stay) fit and healthy while still enjoying very delicious food.

Traditional Korean Buddhist temple food is one of the world's healthiest.  Firstly, it is strictly vegetarian, even no dairy, and hence very rich in dietary fiber.  Secondly, it is a low-salt, low-sugar, and low-calorie diet.  Thirdly, it never uses artificial flavor enhancer (100% MSG-free) but uses natural seasonings only such as mushroom powder, kelp powder, Chinese pepper seed powder, perilla seed powder, and bean/nut powder.  Not only do these seasonings enhance the flavor of foods but offer myriad health benefits per se.  Fourthly, it primarily uses what’s in season so you can get the most flavor and nutritional value.  Fifthly, it is based on the belief that food is the cure, Sik-Yak-Dong-Weon (식약동원(食藥同源), “Food and medicine are identical.”).  In other words, what we eat can cure what we have.  For example, Buddhist monks eat cabbages to aid digestion, ginkgo nuts marinated in sesame seed oil to cure lung problems, and pickled Chinese peppers for their anthelmintic action.  Finally, the Buddhist monks always serve themselves small portions of the foods.  Just as the late venerable Buddhist leader Beopjeong (법정) wrote in his book, Musoyu (무소유, “Non-Possession”), we’d better start eating less, coveting less, and possessing less.

2.  Seasoned Noodles with Korean Burdock and Vegetables
     (Ueong Japchae, 우엉잡채)

Ueong Japchae: I substituted rice noodles for Dangmyeon
(sweet potato starch noodles) as I ran out of them.

Ueong Japchae (우엉잡채, “Seasoned Korean Burdock and Vegetable Shreds”) is one the most common traditional Korean Buddhist temple foods, in which Korean burdock roots substitute for beef.  Contrary to popular thought, Japchae refers to a dish made only with vegetables such as mushrooms, Korean radishes (Mu, ), carrots, onions, cucumbers, and spinach.  It was not until the early 20th century that Dangmyeon (당면, “sweet potato starch noodles”) added to the dish; the noodles have become a primary ingredient of this dish ever since.  Japchae (made with noodles) has been one of my all time favorite dishes from day one, and lately, I’ve been frequently substituting rice noodles for Dangmyeon (“sweet potato starch noodles”) just for convenience' sake.

FYI, in such Korean words as Dangmyeon,  Danggeun or Hongdangmu (carrots), and  Dangnagwi (donkey), the word “dang” indicates what country they were originated from, i.e., ancient China.  Literally, Dangmyeon translates to “The Tang Dynasty’s noodles,” Danggeun “The Tang Dynasty’s roots,” Hongdangmu “The Tang Dynasty’s red raddish,” and Dangnagwi “The Tang Dynasty’s ass (animal),” in which it doesn’t necessarily mean those were imported from (during) the Tang Dynasty (618~907) but simply indicates “from China.”  Dangmyeon was originally made from Mung bean starch, the exact kind of cellophane noodles you can find in your local grocery markets now, but in Korea, it has evolved into a distinctive Koreanized version – Dangmyeon refers to the noodles made from “sweet potato starch” or “potato starch” in today’s Korea.

Authentic Japchae is made in a similar way how it is done in a traditional pound cake recipe, in which you use a pound of each of four ingredients (flour, butter, eggs, and sugar).  In other words, you are supposed to use the same amount of each ingredient in the traditional recipe for the dish.  Nowadays, however, a little too much noodles are used in restaurants or in products made for sale.  If you’re a huge noodle fan (like I am), add just a little bit more of them, no more than twice the amount, to have a balanced, more palatable, diet. (Note that you’ll have to increase the amount of seasoning sauce accordingly.)

INGREDIENTS:  ● ⅓ LB Dangmyeon* noodles or rice noodles
(2~3 servings)   ● ⅓ LB Ueong Jorim (Braised Korean burdock roots)**
                            (Click for the recipe.) 
                         ● 5 dried (or fresh) Pyogo* mushrooms, reconstituted and sliced
                         ● 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
                         ● 1 small onion, sliced
                         ● ½ green bell pepper, sliced***
                         ● grape seed oil
                         ● 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

                         [Seasoning Sauce]
                         ● 2 TBSP soy sauce
                         ● 1 TBSP brown or cane sugar
                         ● 1 TBSP sesame seed oil

                         [Mushroom/Beef Marinade]
                         ● 1 TBSP soy sauce
                         ● 1 TBSP brown or dark brown sugar
                         ● 1 tsp minced garlic
                         ● 1 TBSP sesame seed oil
                         ● ground black pepper to taste

                         * You can find the ingredients in your local Korean markets.
                        ** You can substitute (or just add) thinly sliced beef sirloin for 
                            Ueong Jorim.
                        ***You can substitute green hot chili peppers for green bell pepper 
                            if you like spicy food. You can also substitute (or add) spinach
                            for green peppers.


1.  Soak the Dangmyeon noodles (or rice noodles) in hot water for about 30 minutes until fully reconstituted.  Drain well.  With Scissors, cut the noodles into 7” lengths.
2.  Slice Pyogo mushrooms and pour the marinade mixture over them. Let it sit.  In case you use beef meat, marinate beef instead.  You will later stir-fry the mushrooms in the juices from the meat leak out after you stir-fry the beef.
3.  Cut each vegetable into thin slices or shreds (2~2.5” lengths). 


1.  Place a large frying pan over medium heat and pour enough grape seed oil to generously coat the pan.  The authentic way to cook is stir fry vegetables separately.  But if you’re in a hurry, then start from stir frying the onions and carrots first. Then add the Pyogo mushrooms and bell peppers. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue stir-frying  until the vegetables are tender but still crunchy and crispy.  Remove from heat and transfer into a large mixing bowl.  Let cool.

I substituted cabbage for mushrooms
as I ran out of them.

2.  In case you use beef meat, add I TBSP grape seed oil in the frying pan and stir fry the marinated beef over medium-high heat until fully cooked. Transfer to the mixing bowl. 
3.  Then add the mushroom slices the juices from the meat leak out in the pan and stir fry.  Transfer to the mixing bowl. 
4.  Add soaked and drained Dangmyeon noodles to a pot of boiling water and cook for about 1~2 minutes. Drain the noodles through a strainer and immediately transfer to the pan to prevent sticking.  Sauté the noodles for a minute and transfer to the mixing bowl.  (In case you use rice noodles instead, skip boiling and just sauté.)
5.  Add Ueong Jorim (Braised Korean burdock roots) into the mixing bowl. Pour the seasoning sauce over the vegetable and noodle mixture.  You can adjust the amount of soy sauce or sugar to achieve the desired saltiness or sweetness.  Beware to season a little stronger to your usual taste as the moisture from the vegetables will dilute the salty taste of the dish.
6.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Mix with your hands until well combined.  You may want to wear a thin cotton glove under a plastic one when the noodles are still hot.  .  (In case you use rice noodles, use your both hands to detangle the noodle strips.)

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