Weekend Cooking and Cook it up: Japchae and Kimchi Chronicles

As a stay-home mum with two littles, I try to do as much home cooking as I can. We do our fair share of eating out, especially on weekends when we hit our favourite Japanese/Korean/Chinese/diner spots (and ok ok, sometimes fried chicken or pizza or burgers!), but on weekdays, it’s mostly about cobbling together stuff at home. On Sundays, I attempt one big make-ahead meal, and it’s usually a baked pasta or baked rice dish which I put together then bung in the oven on Monday evenings – then eat the leftovers for lunches etc. But there’s only so many days that we can chow down on something cheesy (at least I can’t – the 3.5yo on the other hand could eat that everyday). Plus it seems like my littler one has more of an Asian palate! He’s a rice and noodle lover that one.

So there are some Sundays where I turn to japchae. It’s a Korean dish that uses noodles made from sweet potato starch. The best part is that it is usually served at room temperature and also makes great leftovers. And it is easily customizable with your favourite vegetables and meats, or whatever you have in the kitchen.

We first encountered Japchae at a Korean restaurant in San Jose. I was surprised by how much my kids love Korean food, especially the 1.5-year-old. At our favorite Korean restaurant, they always bring out soup specially for the kids, which has tofu and daikon simmered in the (so very tasty) broth. And with all the banchan (side dishes) that they lay out on the table in little dishes before the main courses arrive, the kids have plenty to eat. One of the banchan that’s popular with my two is japchae. We always ask for a second helping! Our usual order is: seafood pancake, bulgogi, acorn noodles (it’s a cold noodle dish with plenty of vegetables) and sometimes the dumplings. That makes for plenty of leftovers for the next day!

I haven’t dabbled much in Korean cooking. Bibimbap, Bulgogi and Japchae are all I’ve done so far.


Google ‘japchae’ and you’ll find plenty of recipes online like this one from Maangchi. But I decided to cook it after browsing through The Kimchi Chronicles by Marja Vongerichten. I hadn’t heard of her or the book – or the TV series – before my Mum bought this book. In case that last name looks familiar, her husband is Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Marja is half-Korean, adopted by an American family when she was a child.

Her book has some rather interesting cross-cultural ideas, like hotdogs with kimchi relish, grilled Korean lobster rolls with scallion mayonnaise. And quite a few of the recipes are by her husband, some by their chef friends like Mark Bitttman and David Chang.

Her Japchae recipe is also a slightly different version from those I’ve seen online, adding asparagus, snow peas and fava beans. I didn’t have those vegetables at hand, but when I do, I might add those in next time. I especially like the sound of fava beans. Her recipe also includes honey which I didn’t add, as most Japchae recipes don’t contain honey and I don’t think it needs to be sweetened.


I cooked my noodles with baby spinach, julienned carrots, sliced mushrooms, green onions. And served it with soy sauce-marinated pork chops cooked separately. You could cook thinly sliced meat together with the noodles.

One tip for the noodles – after you parboil them and drain them, add enough sesame oil so that it won’t stick.



(Here’s what the noodles look like – big packets of usually three or four bunches of noodles. Each bunch serves about 4 people. I reckon that mung bean noodles/glass noodles/tunghoon would make a decent substitute)

 Some of Vongerichten’s recipes are available online here. But I’ve got my eye on a few that I might try soon, like the Braised Short Ribs with Pumpkin, Barbecued Chicken with Sweet Barbecue Sauce (the sauce includes gochujang and Korean citron marmalade). And oh, I don’t quite dare but am intrigued by the Kimchi Mary (?!!) – the Korean version of Bloody Mary with fish sauce and kimchi liquid!

Kimchi Chronicles isn’t a traditional Korean cookbook (it does after all say “for an American Kitchen”). It’s got some interesting ideas and is a pretty good introduction if you’ve never tried cooking Korean food before.

(Here are lists of Korean cookbooks in English – I’ve not read any others so I can’t suggest any! Usually I just check Maangchi)

Kimchi Chronicles’ Japchae recipe 

1 pound japchae noodles (made from sweet potato, also labeled as dangmyeon) or cellophane noodles
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. roasted sesame seeds
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, finely diced
3 bell peppers, preferably red, yellow and orange, slivered
1 large carrot, cut into strips
1/2 pound thin asparagus, halved lengthwise
1 cup snow peas, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup thawed frozen peeled fava beans (see note)
1 small handful thin green beans or haricots verts
3 cups baby spinach leaves

Boil the noodles according to package directions. Drain and drizzle with a little sesame oil and set aside.

Whisk together the soy sauce, honey, sesame seeds, and half the garlic in a small bowl. Set the sesame-garlic sauce aside.

Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp. each of sesame oil and olive oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, and the remaining garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until browned and softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a plate and drizzle with a bit of sesame oil.

Add another 1 1/2 Tbsp. each of sesame oil and olive oil to the wok and add the bell peppers and carrot. Cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, snap peas, fava beans, and green beans and cook until all the vegetables are just barely cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Add the reserved sesame-garlic sauce, the noodles, mushrooms, and pea shoots or spinach and stir just until the greens wilt, about 30 seconds. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 4.

Note: You can substitute 1/2 cup fresh fava beans that have been blanched and peeled; you’ll need 1/2 pound fava bean pods to get 1/2 cup beans.


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Weekend Cooking: Flourless chocolate cake

Open the fridge. Stare at it. Decide there’s nothing interesting to eat.

Open the pantry. Stare at it. Decide there’s nothing interesting to eat.

Turn on the laptop. Google ‘Flourless chocolate cake’. Browse several recipes. Decide on the always dependable King Arthur Flour’s recipe. Sounds simple enough. All the ingredients are at hand. Let’s go!

This very dedicated chocoholic has oddly never considered making flourless chocolate cake before. But now that I have I’m so going to make it again! It was quick and easy and made for such a delicious chocolate-y luxury.

They suggest using espresso powder to bring out the chocolate even more. I didn’t have espresso powder so gave it a try with some instant coffee powder. I’m not sure if that made a difference but it was a very chocolate-y cake.

The recipe did call for a chocolate glaze made with cream which I didn’t have. So I found a chocolate ganache recipe that used milk and butter. And it was perfect!

Essentially, melt 50g of butter with 120 ml of milk (I used whole milk), and add 200g of chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet). Depending on the sweetness of the chocolate you use, and the level of sweetness you want, you might want to add some sugar.



Whichever ganache you use, or even if you choose not to slather anything on the cake, and serve it with vanilla bean ice-cream instead, this flourless chocolate cake is a beauty. Rich, chocolate-y, absolutely divine.



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Weekend cooking: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking


I first came across this cookbook (by the Baked bakery in NYC) looking for recipes for homemade granola. I love granola and am always appalled by how much commercially made granola costs (I have a soft spot for Dorset cereals, although I buy their muesli and not the granola). And when I tasted the granola at Bread & Cie in San Diego, I couldn’t get that homemade feeling out of my head. It was just comforting – and so tasty!

So making use of old google, I came across this recipe on Amateur Gourmet. And since I had pretty much everything I needed in my kitchen, I gave the recipe a try, substituting dried cherries (didn’t have any) with dried apricot and adding a bit of shredded coconut. Tasted good but just a bit too salty.


And so I made it again, halving the salt (about 1/2 tsp), again adding some shredded coconut, sliced almonds, raisins and apricot. I also reduced the sugar. And instead of just using rolled oats, I used 1 cup rolled oats and 1 cup of a mixed grain cereal (rye, barley, oats). I gave this batch away to my mother-in-law who was heading home to Singapore after a visit with us.

Then today I thought that I would make another batch, this time without the nuts (adding more raisins and apricots), just in case wee reader would try some. And he did!


Another recipe I tried was the chocolate chip cookie (someone posted the recipe here). I made it the first time a couple of months ago, but neglected to read that very important step that said ‘refrigerate for 6 hours’. And so, the result was a batch of chocolate chip pancakes. Tasty yes, but so so flat and ugly.

So I made it again, and just to be on the safe side, refrigerated it overnight (ok maybe that had something to do with a sudden craving in the afternoon for said cookies). And they were great. So great I had four that very day. Erm yeah, I did say I had a craving right?

The bakery is probably best known for their brownie (recipe here), named by America’s Test Kitchen as best brownie recipe, and it sounds like a rich sinful brownie (the photos on that blog I linked to look divine!). This weekend perhaps!


Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs