Shopping for naturally gluten-free ingredients in Albany's Asian markets has proven to be a fun and inexpensive way to try new foods and recipes. We try to get down once a month to stock up on rice varieties, spices, gorgeous fresh Asian produce and all kinds of exotic sauces, snacks and canned vegetables to experiment with.
On our last shopping trip I picked up a bag of gray-colored sweet potato noodles to play around with. They cost under $2 and looked intriguing. After a little research on Korean cuisine, I found this recipe for Chapchae (also known as Jabchae or Japchae) which is a traditional stir-fry of these noodles with sesame oil, sliced veggies, all slathered in a sweetened soy sauce. That would work!
The cooking directions on the back of the package were a little confusing, but I got them softened up for the pot by bringing a big pot of water to a boil and then soaking them in it, with the stove burner turned off, while I was busy chopping up my other Chapchae ingredients (about 15 minutes).
The cooked noodles turn absolutely clear, which is why they are also referred to as cellophane noodles or glass noodles. They also had a springy, gelatinous texture, kind of like Jello jigglers and would make a perfect bowl of "guts" for anyone's Halloween Haunted House.
We feasted on a delicious batch of Chapchae the first night and then had lots left over for the next day, when the noodles got even fatter and softer and absorbed more of the luscious sauce. While our package of cellophane noodles was made of sweet potato (actually botanically a yam) starch, other varieties of cellophane noodles are made of mung bean starch, but both would be good substitutes for wheat-based noodles in a gluten-free diet.
Here's my upstate New York version of Chapchae, which turned out great and can be adapted to use any other varieties of veggies you might want to add:
1 (12 oz.) pkg. sweet potato noodles (also called cellophane or glass noodles)
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
1 bunch chives, snipped
3 cups tatsoi or boy choy, stems sliced and leaves rough chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. firm tofu, drained and cubed
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (check ingredients to make sure it's gluten-free)
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional garnish)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and turn off heat. Cover and let soak until softened, about 15 minutes.
Heat peanut oil in heated wok or large pot. Add onions, garlic and chives, and cook, stirring constantly, until onions are softened, 3-4 minutes. Add tatsoi and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, another 5 minutes.
Add tofu and stir in gently. Cook another 2-3 minutes to heat through.
Mix sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar together and stir to dissolve sugar. Add to wok and mix thoroughly. When heated through, remove from heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve while hot.
Makes 6-8 servings.
I will be seeking out these cellophane or sweet potato noodles again on my next Asian market trip. I liked them clear and jiggly, while husband Dan preferred them when they were softer the next day, but both ways were really tasty. I can't wait to try them in my Cold Sesame Noodle salad recipe, as I think their texture will really give this great party dish a nice bite.
Am sending a bowl of this tasty Chapchae over to Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, who is this week's host of Presto Pasta Nights, a long-running blog event where great cooks from around the world share their delicious posts and recipes about the World of Noodles. Check back with Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat after October 8 for a great roundup.