SINGAPORE - You may not be able to dine out for now, because of new restrictions introduced on Friday (May 14) to curb the spread of Covid-19 cases in the community.
But you can certainly still dine well at home.
While people are always thinking of new restaurants to try, cooking at home can sometimes be more satisfying than dining out.
Take your mind off the pandemic and have a taste of South Korea with japchae (stir-fried glass noodles). It is a multi-sensory experience and the perfect centrepiece to brighten any dinner table.
Taste takes priority, followed closely by texture and colour.
There is quite a bit of work involved, so prepare a larger portion. Leftovers can be eaten chilled.
The dish lends itself well to experimentation. The commonly used beef can be replaced with pork or chicken. Vegetarians can use firm beancurd or omit the meat.
Vary the ingredients depending on your taste and what is available. Consider trying different types of mushrooms, such as enoki, bunashimeiji or oyster. If you dislike the texture of soya bean sprouts, omit them or use regular bean sprouts.
I find the best thing about japchae is that there is no need to fry the noodles - just boil and dress with some seasoning. Cook vegetables separately for optimal texture. You can save time and effort by stir-frying vegetables together, but start with ingredients that take longer to cook.
To get the noodles as springy as possible, quickly rinse them under the tap before dunking them in ice water once they have been boiled.
I have also included the recipe for another dish that should whet appetites - bittergourd with salted egg.
Korean glass noodles
6 shiitake mushrooms
4 wood ear mushrooms
220g beef, sliced
300g dried sweet potato noodles
½ tsp salt
100g soya bean sprouts
2 tsp sesame oil
250g spinach, cut into 5cm lengths
Pinch of sugar
3 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 bell peppers (any colour),
1 red chilli, deseeded and
1 carrot, shredded
3 stalks spring onion, cut into
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbs toasted white sesame seeds
Marinade for beef
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs light soya sauce
Dash of pepper
Pinch of sugar
Seasoning for noodles
4 Tbs sesame oil
3 Tbs light soya sauce
½ tsp sugar
1. Soak shiitake and wood ear mushrooms. De-stem and slice thinly.
2. Marinate the beef for at least 15 minutes.
3. Boil the noodles according to the packet's instructions. Drain and put into a large bowl. Add seasoning and mix well. Set aside.
4. Bring a pot of water to boil, add a pinch of salt. Add the soya bean sprouts and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Reserve boiling water. Remove the bean sprouts from the pot and place in colander to drain excess water. Place bean sprouts in a separate bowl, then season with half a teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Transfer into the bowl of noodles.
6. Bring water that was used to cook bean sprouts to a boil.
7. Blanch the spinach and season with half a teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt and sugar. Add the spinach to the pot of noodles.
8. Heat a frying pan. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and fry half of the minced garlic and beef. Once the beef browns, remove from heat. Reserve the cooking liquid and add beef into the pot of noodles.
9. Heat one teaspoon of olive oil and lightly stir-fry onion until almost tender. Add to the noodles.
10. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and stir-fry the shiitake and wood ear mushrooms for about three minutes.
11. Add the reserved liquid from the beef. Once the liquid reduces, add the mushrooms to the noodles.
12. Heat the remaining olive oil, lightly stir-fry the bell peppers, sliced chilli and carrot for a minute. Add to the noodles.
13. Add spring onions and the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil to the noodles. Using gloves, mix the ingredients and noodles together.
14. Fry the eggs into an omelette, slice into thin strips and use as a garnish.
15. Garnish the dish with toasted sesame seeds.
Serves four to five
Bittergourd with salted egg
Take bittergourd to the next level by adding salted eggs. I am not above taking shortcuts such as using cooked salted eggs. A foodie friend said all he needs is a bowl of plain rice to go with this dish and it would make him happy.
2 mini bittergourds (250g)
1 Tbs cooking oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cooked salted eggs (120g), coarsely mashed
2 eggs (120g), beaten
Dash of white pepper
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of sugar
1. Halve each bittergourd lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape away the seeds. Slice.
2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat.
3. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds.
4. Add the salted eggs and fry for 45 seconds, then add the bittergourd. Fry for one minute.
5. Add water and continue frying for two minutes.
6. Add the beaten eggs. Stir through.
7. Season the dish with white pepper, salt and sugar.
8. Fry for another 1½ minutes and serve.
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