Edible Alphabet is a free English Language Learning (ELL) program offered by the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. The mission is to teach English language and literacy skills through hands-on cooking projects. While Free Library locations remain closed to the public in the interest of public health and safety, we will be sharing weekly recipes from our class curriculum and past participants.
As the weather heats up, I’m turning to a traditional Korean noodle salad, Japchae, which can be served hot, cool, or room temperature, and is delicious and refreshing on a warm, almost-summer day. This recipe comes from Edible Alphabet participant Grace, and was a big hit at our class celebration this past December. Japchae is a traditional celebratory dish in South Korea and is commonly served as a banchan (side dish), although it can also work as a main dish for a light lunch or dinner. I was able to find dangmyeon (sweet potato glass noodles) in the international aisle of my neighborhood grocery store, but if you are having difficulty, they are also available online. You can also substitute regular glass / cellophane noodles or vermicelli, if needed.
Every June, Philadelphia celebrates Immigrant Heritage Month. To explore Korean culture further, there are many Free Library resources you can access from home with your library card. If you’re looking for a soundtrack while you cook, try streaming popular Korean music through Hoopla. Looking to develop your language skills? Create an account with Mango Languages for free and explore the unit on Korean food and drink culture. Kanopy allows Free Library cardholders to stream up to 4 films for free each month and has an impressive Korean language collection, including the highly acclaimed Miracle in Cell 7, which I just added to my list.
Korean Noodle Salad (Japchae)
- 6 ounces Korean sweet potato glass noodles (dangmyeon)*
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small sweet onion
- 2 scallions
- 4 - 5 mushrooms
- 6 ounces fresh spinach
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
- Vegetable oil
- Black pepper
*If you can’t find sweet potato glass noodles, you can substitute regular glass or cellophane noodles or vermicelli
- Cut the carrot into matchsticks. Thinly slice the onion. Cut the scallions into similar lengths.
- Blanch the spinach in boiling water, only until wilted. Drain quickly and shock in cold water. Squeeze out excess water, cut into about 2-inch lengths, and lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Make the sauce by combining soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package directions (usually 6 - 7 minutes). Rinse in cold water and drain. Cut the noodles with kitchen shears or a knife into 6 -7 inch lengths.
- Mix the noodles with 2 tablespoons of the prepared sauce in a large bowl.
- In a large non-stick skillet, stir fry the noodles over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent and a bit sticky (about 4 minutes). Transfer back to the bowl.
- Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan, and stir fry the onion and mushrooms together over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent. Lightly season with salt and pepper. When the onion is almost done, stir in the scallion and cook briefly. Transfer to the bowl with the noodles.
- Stir fry the carrot for 1 to 2 minutes until softened. (Do not overcook. The vegetables should be crisp.) Transfer to the bowl.
- Add the spinach and the remaining sauce to the bowl with all other prepared ingredients.
- Toss well by hand. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding a little more (start with 1/2 teaspoon) soy sauce and/or sugar as necessary.
For more information about Edible Alphabet and the Culinary Literacy Center, visit freelibrary.org/cook or email kitchen @ freelibrary.org. Enjoy this recipe? Leave a comment and stay tuned for another Edible Alphabet recipe next week!