I have a Korean acquaintance who was recently telling me that he wanted to eat more vegetarian meals, but that traditional Korean cuisine was tough to make vegetarian.
"Nonsense", I said. "Any cuisine can be made vegetarian." Yerp. If you can make German vegetarian dishes (and I've done it), you can do anything, right?
Ok, ok... I found out it's a little tough. Korean vegetarian cuisine is indeed a bit sparce. But I love a good challenge, and I'll be posting Korean vegetarian recipes over the coming weeks, as I find good Korean dishes that work well with meat substitutes (or just without meat, period).
Here's my first offering in the Korean vegetarian recipes category - Vegetables with Korean Style Noodles:
6 oz bean thread noodles (also called glass noodles or mung bean noo)
1/4 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp hot Korean style chili paste
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 large onion, sliced
2 large carrots, cut into 2 inch strips
8 oz shiitake or white mushrooms, sliced
Soak noodles in warm water for 10 minutes to soften, then cook in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.
Combine sesame soy sauce or tamari, rice wine, garlic, sugar, and chili paste.
Cook onion, carrots, mushrooms, and spinach in a medium pan with sesame oil until tender. Pour soy sauce mixture over vegetables, lower temperature and simmer for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve vegetables over bean thread noodles.
I've found a few recipes for chap chae that call for 1/2 cup or more of tamari or soy sauce. I cut the soy sauce in half and used rice wine to make up the liquid - this takes out quite a bit of sodium. If you wanted to cut out even more sodium, you could use 1/2 cup of rice wine while cooking, and then sprinkle tamari over the vegetables just before serving.
I'm often guilty of placing healthy and quick cooking over authenticity - I try to come up with recipes that are as authentic as possible, while making them healthier and easier to make than the original recipes. That said, I'm told that the authentic Korean version of this recipe would call for dang myun, which is a noodle made with sweet potato starch.
Look, I'm just some hippie from Ohio. Maybe you can find dang myun in your neck of the woods, but I certainly can't come up with it here.