As mentioned in my previous King Kale Salad Recipe , on the rare occasion that Catalina and I go out to eat we usually opt for ethnic restaurants. One of our favorite things to eat is Korean Japchae – stir-fried sweet potato starch noodles with veggies and, sometimes, meat. Toronto is incredible in terms of culinary diversity. Nearly every single country and culture is represented in the restaurants and eateries of our amazing city. We’re absolutely spoiled when it comes to options and selection. It’s partly the reason we’re always so disappointed when we travel to cities that cater to a single cuisine. (Except Chiang Mai, Thailand. I could eat Thai food in Chiang Mai everyday for the rest of my life!) Take Spain, for example. Unless you’re in one of the metropolitan cities like Madrid or Barcelona, your dining options are usually Spanish, Spanish or Spanish. The same goes for much of France where you’ll find French, French or French! Sure there are the odd Kebap shops and such but for the most part you’re eating the same things in different places. Maybe it’s just me, but food is about so much more than just eating. Food is about love, family, tradition, innovation, experimentation, flavours, art, and exploration (the list goes on but I’ll cut to the chase.) These things are especially true when eating the food of a culture different from one’s own. If eating is the physical act of consuming culture, cooking is the attempt to come to terms with it. It is one thing to eat a bowl of Phở, but it is entirely another thing to try to cook the perfect broth for 12 hours. You gain a new found appreciation for the dish and the people that make it so damn well. Even if it isn’t Paleo!
These are just a few of the reasons Catalina and I seek out ethnic spots on our cheat days. We might hit-up a great Thai spot for some coconut curry, a Vietnamese restaurant for a steaming bowl of Phở, or, as mentioned, we just might go for some Korean! Our favourite? It’s gotta be our local place, Song Cook’s, which serves up the best Korean comfort food in Toronto (IMHO). Their entire menu is off-the-hook amazing and if you’re in the GTA, you should go there now! No, wait! You’re not done reading… One of the dishes we like to get is their Japchae. You can get Japchae at virtually every Korean restaurant. Its not a secret item by any means. What you may not know, however, is that you don’t need to go to a Korean joint to get your fix of Japchae. On top of that, Japchae can be made Paleo-friendly. And on top of that, you can make Paleo Japchae yourself, at home. It’s super easy!
The fundamentals of Japchae are the sweet potato starch noodles and the veggies, which are normally stir-fried together in a non-Paleo oil and seasoned with soy sauce and some other liquids. My Paleo version uses coconut oil to stirfry the veggies and replaces the soy with coconut aminos. The finished Japchae is amazingly good! In fact, I prefer my Paleo Japchae to some of the ones I’ve had at Korean restaurants in Toronto and elsewhere (I’m looking at you Baltimore!). Not only do I prefer this one in terms of taste, but also because I’m not left feeling bloated or lethargic afterwards from the copious amounts of processed seed-oil. It also means that I get to cook food that is different, delicious, interesting and foreign. Sure I might be blaspheming traditional Korean recipes by using coconut aminos. But I think that’s a sin that can be forgiven for the sake of healthy cooking.
Some tips for making a great Japchae:
1) use a julienne speed-peeler or spiralizer to cut the carrot into thin, uniform ribbons.
2) Prepare all of your mise en place (fancy chef word for prep-work) before beginning the cooking process because this dish comes together fairly quickly and you don’t want to be left scrambling at the last minute.
3) Not so much a tip but more so a word of caution: Sweet Potato Noodles are very high in carbohydrates and though they are better for you than refined starch noodles, I do not recommend eating large or regular amounts of these noodles if you are focused on losing weight. If you are, then treat this as a cheat meal because your palate and eyes probably won’t be upset with how delicious and beautiful it is.
Give it a go and let me know what you think in the comments below.
- 1 Small Package (Approx. 500gr) Sweet Potato Starch Noodles Available at most Asian Grocery Stores
- 6-8 oz Grass-fed Top Sirloin thinly sliced (Can substitute most cuts of steak)
- 1 medium carrot julienned
- 1/2 red bell pepper julienned
- 300 gr fresh cremini mushrooms can substitute shiitake, mini bellas, portobello or reconstituted dried mushrooms
- 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 zucchini halved lenght-wise and thinly sliced into half-moons
- 4-5 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1 Jalapeño seeded and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup coconut amino
- 2-3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp organic maple syrup optional
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- White Sesame Seeds For Garnish
- Cook the sweet potato noodles according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.
- In a large wok or cast iron skillet, heat 1 tbsp coconut over high heat.
- Toss in sliced beef and cook until medium-rare. Transfer cooked beef to a bowl along with all rendered juices - set aside.
- Return the same pan to the stove and reduce to medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp coconut oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add in the mushrooms and sautée for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning or sticking.
- Once they have softened and have developed some colour, season the mushrooms with a small pinch of kosher salt
- Add in the sliced garlic and cook for 30-45 seconds.
- Once the smell of the garlic has perfumed the air, add in the carrot, red pepper, onion, zucchini & jalapeño.
- Sautée all of the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the carrots have softened – approximately 12-15 minutes.
- Once the vegetables are cooked, deglaze the pan with the coconut amino, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan for any caramelized bits. ***Note: coconut amino tends to be sweeter than soy sauce. If the coconut amino you use is more savoury, add in 1 tbsp organic maple syrup for sweetness. Always taste the food before adding!
- Remove from heat and add the cooked slices of beef and the sweet potato noodles. Toss everything to combine. The heat from the pan and the cooked vegetables should bring the noodles back up to temperature.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with naturally-fermented, organic kimchi.
**Note, Japchae is typically served as a vegetarian dish so feel free to skip the meat, if so inclined!