Korean Steak Noodles
This traditional Korean noodle dish is called japchae, and it's totally appealing to kids, given its sweetness, saltiness, and steakiness. Sweet potato noodles are transparent and wildly chewy; look for them in an Asian supermarket or in the international foods section of a large supermarket, or else substitute the closest approximation you can find.
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
5 or 6 dried black or shiitake mushrooms
12 ounces sweet potato noodles (or the same amount of Asian cellophane, glass, or bean thread noodles or, in a pinch, regular vermicelli)
a bunch of spinach (washed) or a bag of baby spinach
2 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and finely chopped, divided use
1 tablespoon Asian toasted sesame oil, divided use
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 pound boneless steak (such as New York strip or sirloin tips), about 1-inch thick, sliced into 1/4-inch thick strips
1/3 cup soy sauce, divided use
1/2 an onion, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
3 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces (or a few large chives, snipped)
1/3 cup sugar
toasted sesame seeds
- Begin by reconstituting the mushrooms: in a small bowl, cover them with very hot tap water and set them aside.
- Now cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 4-5 minutes (it may be less or more if you're using a different type of noodle: you don't want to cook them beyond chewiness), then use tongs to pull them out into a colander and rinse them very well under cold running water. They will be very, very chewy, which is what you want. If you like, use scissors to cut them up a bit for easier eating.
- In that same pot of boiling water, blanch the spinach: it will turn bright green almost immediately, at which point you should drain it in a colander and rinse it under cold water. Gather it into a ball and squeeze all the moisture out of it and, if you used large leaves of spinach, cut the ball in half with a knife. In a small bowl, dress the spinach with half the garlic, a teaspoon of the sesame oil, and the salt and set it aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the steak, a spoonful of the soy sauce, and the rest of the garlic. Stir-fry until the meat is cooked, 3-4 minutes, then add the onion, the carrot, and the mushrooms, which you've drained and cut into slices. Cook until the onion is translucent, another 3 or so minutes, then add the scallions and stir-fry for another minute.
- In a large bowl, combine the noodles, the spinach, the beef mixture, the remaining soy sauce, the remaining sesame oil, and the sugar. Mix it will -- you will likely need to use your hands for this -- then serve warm, sprinkled with the sesame seeds.