Japchae is one of the Korean dishes I have cooked the most (it is probably tied with Kimchi Fried Rice). Koreans call this a “손이 많이가는 음식“, which translates to a dish that takes a lot of handiwork; however,this dish is worth all the effort. It takes longer than others because there is a lot of prep work: one must chop all the vegetables, marinate the beef, cook the vegetables and beef, cook the sweet potato noodles, and then add all ingredients together with a sauce, tasting along the way until it tastes just right.
This is one of my favorite dishes because it keeps well in the fridge and tastes just as good microwaved a few days later as it does when it’s fresh. The dish has noodles, vegetables, and protein so it is quite substantial; all you need is a bowl of rice to go along with it. Some people like to make japchae fried rice as well. The key to a delicious japchae is getting the sauce just right- you want the right balance of salty soy sauce with sweet sugar or honey, salt & pepper, and sesame oil. I like to start with a basic sauce and then keep modifying the taste at the end with extra ingredients until it tastes just right to me. Sometimes it takes five or so iterations of futzing with the sauce/seasoning at the end to get the desired outcome. I have the same issues when I make vinaigrettes. Loads of fresh cracked black pepper are key to making the flavors shine.
Japchae is common as a banchan at many restaurants so you don’t always have to order it separately off the menu. Surprisingly my favorite place to get japchae in NY is not at a restaurant in KTown, but at a buffet / deli, Café Duke, on 51st and Sixth. They have really perfected the sauce and just ladle it on. A non-Korean person actually told me I needed to try a delicious noodle dish they discovered and took me to eat it at Café Duke. I was really amused to see them ask for chicken instead of beef and extra red pepper flakes. This is akin to asking for a Philly Cheesesteak with chicken instead of beef.
Mise en Place, Japchae Ingredients
Sweet potato noodles, dangmyeon (당면). You can find these at your local HMart. Make this a gluten free Korean dish.
Marinating and cooking the thinly sliced beef. HMart actually sells packages of beef like this for japchae. You can use any type of beef/steak and cut into thin slices at home.
Click here to see the full japchae recipe with photos and video
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the wholesale divison of Balthazar Bakery in Englewood, NJ. NYers are familiar with the famous Soho restaurant and bakery but most probably do not know that the bread, pastries, and cakes are actually made in the factory in Englewood, NJ and delivered to the city. Also many bakeries throughout NY and NJ actually source their bread from here, so if that delicious scone at your local coffee shop tastes familiar, it could very well be from Balthazar. If you want to try the bread fresh from the source I would recommend stopping by if you are in NJ.
The bakery is in a handsome red brick building a few blocks away from Englewood town center with ample parking out front. The storefront is really small so the line of ten on a Saturday morning snaked out the door. It was fun to see all the people who were regulars, but still so excited to put in their bread and pastry orders. The ordering and delivery system was very methodical and the line moved quickly. The bakery faces east and there is some amazing light pouring in through the main and side windows- it is true foodie porn to see all the beautiful fresh baked breads and pastries lit up by the natural sunlight.
I bought some hot cross buns (with yummy candied oranges and raisins), pecan sticky buns, cranberry scone, slice of carrot cake, and almond croissant for $13. The prices were less than expected, or maybe I am so numbed by New York City prices that any pastry under $3 feels not too expensive. The pecan sticky bun was by far my favorite and came in a mini and large size. I am going back to try their monkey bread and get more sticky bunds and a baguette next time.
Balthazar Bakery Wholesale Divison
214 S Dean Street
Englewood, NJ 07631
My beautiful carbheavy haul from Balthazar and Yedang Tteok Jip. NJ carbs are so good, if you are feeling Korean savory carbs, I would also get Kal Gook Soo at Myung Dong Noodle House in Fort Lee.
Click here to see more photos of the storefront and factory
I had a recent craving for black sesame and steamed cake so I combined the two together in the form of a rice cooker black sesame cake with truwhip and blackberries. Because Asian desserts are lighter than western desserts, I did not want to pair the cake with a heavy frosting, instead I used truwhip from Whole Foods and really loved the combo of the richer toasted sesame with the light truwhip. Blackberries with truwhip is a treat in itself. This was my first rice cooker cake and I adapted this recipe from zojirushi. The cake turned out a bit denser than the light and spongy texture I had desired and used more egg yolk than I am used to; next time I will try adapting an angel foodcake recipe for the rice cooker instead. It took 65min or two regular white rice cooking cycles to fully cook the cake. I used the basic toothpick test after cooking for 50min and found the cake was still wet, after an additional 15min it was just right. Make sure to tap out any air bubbles that settle once you pour the batter into the rice cooker bowl, any bubbles you see will be baked right into the cake.
Short video of the cake making process
Cooling down the cake
Assembling the cake over an inverted bowl
Rice Cooker Black Sesame Cake
Black sesame cake in a rice cooker
- 1-1/3 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
- 6 large eggs (separate white from yolk)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup ground black sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp black sesame paste (optional, provides a darker color to the cake)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 package truwhip
- 1-2 packages blackberries
- If the sesame seeds are not roasted, roast them in a hot pan for 1-2 min until fragrant
- Grind the black sesame seeds in a food processor until they are the consistency of a fine paste
- Separate the egg whites and yolks using the 3 bowl system to avoid mixing yolks with whites
- Mix together the 6 egg whites with sugar and vanilla extract until slightly stiff
- Add 4 yolks to the egg white mixture and mix on medium until incorporated
- Add sifted flour and milk to the egg mixture
- Add ground sesame seeds from the food processor and sesame seed paste to the mixture and barely mix until uniformly incorporated into the batter
- Butter the inside of the rice bowl, then add the batter to the bowl. Make sure to tap out any airbubbles from the bowl as they will remain intact if not removed
- Use the regular rice cooking cycle of your rice cooker. Cook for 65min. My white rice cycle takes 30min so I had to do 2 full cycles and an extra cycle of 5 minutes.Test the cake with a toothpick for doneness, when the toothpick comes out clean without any wet batter the cake is done
- Flip the rice bowl upside down over a cooling rack and allow the cake to cool an hour or until read for decorating
- Cut off the sides of the cake to make into a cylinder
- Cut the cake in half horizontally to create 2 layers with a serrated knife
- Put a layer of truwhip and blackberries between the two cake layers and decorate the outside with remaining truwhip and blackberries
Yedang is hands down my favorite place to get tteok on the East Coast. I was surprised to find such delicious and fresh tasting tteok locally. My favorite tteok from Yedang is the wormwood steamed een jul me (생쑥 인절미) shown below, the taste of the wormwood is so fresh and this tteok is not sweet at all. In addition to tteok, this store also carries their own beverages and has my favorite sikhye which is a traditional Korean dessert drink with rice. If you have only tried the canned sikhye, you will be pleasantly surprised by Yedang’s sikhye. Yedang carries other traditional desserts like sesame brittle, hangwa, and yumilgwa. Yedang is conveniently located in the same plaza as the super HMart so you can get your grocery shopping done and then stop by for treats afterwards. Their prices are really reasonable for the freshness and quality of the products and their gift packaging is traditional and pretty. This is my go to spot for presents for elders as they will hand select and pack a gift box of your specification and rush ship their goods with an added shipping charge.
Yedang Tteok Jip
321 Broad Avenue
All my favorites from Yedang
The best sikhye (식혜)
Click here to see more photos from Yedang