I love noodles. So much so that I occasionally wonder if I was Asian in a former life. I love their slippery slidey texture, the ‘squeak’ they make when you suck them up through your teeth, and most of all, the way a good sauce will cling to them, making every single bite a joy. I’d live off the bloody things if I could – although I’m not entirely sure that a diet consisting solely of noodles is condusive to a healthy standard of living.
I’ve had noodles in pretty much every incarnation you could think of – from a huge welcoming bowl of Beef Phó swimming with delicious rice noodles slurped down in a tumble down restaurant in Manchester’s China Town to a Super Noodle sandwich which was once made for me by an ex boyfriend back when I was a student – and I’m always looking for ways in which to spruce up these humble strands of tasty tasty joy. So, being the adventurous type, when I saw this recipe for Chap Chae, it just seemed rude not to give it a try.
Chap Chae is seemingly quite simple, comprising mainly of thin slices of beef, those leftover vegetables you have shoved away at the back of your fridge, a bit of seasoning and a metric bumload of noodles. However, this recipe doesn’t just call for any old noodles you can buy from your local branch of ASDA. This calls for Dang Myun a specific type made from sweet potato starch and water. Dang Myun are like long strands of grey spaghetti which turn translucent once cooked. Whilst they don’t specifically taste of anything, they quite a unique texture which is a lot like glass noodles, making them the perfect receptacle for thin clinging sauces. They’re also gluten free, making them the perfect chewy treat for any coeliacs amongst you.
I loved Chap Chae, although it wasn’t such a big hit with Mr. Cay who wasn’t a particularly huge fan of the texture of the dish. Never mind then, all the more for me! The original recipe I followed reliably informed me that they tasted even better when left to cool overnight and by golly they were right. This made an idea weekday breakfast which was gobbled down whilst listening to the Today programme and glugging a large mug of Earl Grey tea. It may not have been the most authentic Korean dish ever made, but it was certainly delicious – which was good enough for me.
CHAP CHAE (Korean Noodles with Beef and Vegetables) – Serves Two
You will need:
- Half a pack of sweet potato vermicelli noodles (dang myun) – you can purchase these from any good Chinese supermarket (such as the amazing Hondo Supermarket on Upper Duke Street in Liverpool)
- 250g beef, sliced into thin strips
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
- 2 spring onions (white and green parts), chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained, and sliced
- 1 small carrot, julienned
- 1 small courgette, julienned
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Salt, to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the noodles until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again, and set aside.
- Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the beef, onions, spring onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and courgette, and stir fry until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the noodles, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. Turn the heat down to low and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Turn off heat, toss in the sesame seeds, and season to taste with salt.
- Serve hot or cold.