Hisa and I are moving out of our apartment in less than a month!
The final countdown has begun!
Ba da da duuun
Ba da da da dun
Ba da da duuuun
Ba da da da da da
duuuun da da duuuuuun da da duuuuuun da da da da da da duuuuuuuuun da di da di duuuuuuuuun
Ah, sorry. I love that song though.
So we’re moving out of our apartment in less than a month. I’ve been trying to gradually get rid of things as it gets closer. Getting rid of things in Japan is not that simple though. You can’t just donate stuff to Goodwill (no such place around here), and you definitely can’t just throw stuff away.
Well, let me rephrase that. You can throw things away, but it takes careful planning and thought. All trash has to be separated according to the city’s standards and thrown away in the proper manner on the proper day.
If the trash is large (there’s specific measurements as to what qualifies), then it automatically becomes “over-sized trash”. For over-size trash you have to buy a special stamp (usually costing either 400 yen or 800 yen, about $4 or $8) to put on the item when you throw it away, call the city trash division, and make an appointment for them to come pick it up. Needless to say, over-sized trash is a bit of a pain in the butt.
I’ve been figuring out what needs to be thrown away and when, trying to sell other things, and figuring out what food we have a lot of that needs to be eaten/used before we leave.
For some unknown reason, we have a lot of noodles. Mainly Japanese somen and soba noodles (although we also have some Thai rice noodles). I’ve been trying to think of interesting recipes that I can use them for other than the basic cold soba/somen and hot soba in soup. It’s too chilly for the basic cold noodles, and although soba noodles in hot soup is good, honestly, I’m not a huge fan. So I’ve been improvising a bit.
I was searching online yesterday for interesting noodle recipes, and came across chop chae (also called jap chae), a Korean noodle dish with vegetables and beef. I love chop chae, but I haven’t had it in years, so I decided spur of the moment to make it for dinner last night.
Now if you know what chop chae is you might be thinking, “But wait! Chop chae involves neither somen nor soba!”. My answer to you would be yes, friend, this is true. But that’s what improvising is all about!
Chop chae uses cellophane noodles (also called glass noodles), which are made from sweet potatoes and turn clear when you cook them.
I used somen. Because I have a lot of somen. So there!
I also didn’t have any mushrooms or spinach (common ingredients for chop chae), and instead used Chinese cabbage (hakusai in Japanese). It still tasted great!
Chop Chae (Jap Chae)
(serves 2 – 3 as a main dish)
- About 250 – 300 grams cellophane noodles
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
- 1 Tbsp. cooking sake
- 1 Tbsp. sweet cooking sake (mirin)
- 4 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- Olive oil
- 1/2 lb. thinly sliced beef
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 2 c. fresh spinach, chopped
- 3 – 4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced (or half of one Japanese negi)
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- Mix cooking sake, mirin, and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in a bowl. Add beef and mix so that beef is coated. Set aside and let marinade.
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook cellophane noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse noodles, mix with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil in a bowl, and set aside.
- Heat a little oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pour beaten eggs into pan and cook until egg is solid, without scrambling/stirring. Place egg onto cutting board and cut into thin strips. Set aside.
- Add a little more oil to skillet. Add onion, carrot, and mushrooms, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add beef to skillet and cook until brown. When beef is almost completely browned, add green onion, garlic, and spinach. Cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.
- Add remaining 3 Tbsp. of soy sauce, and sugar, and mix. Continue cooking for 1 – 2 more minutes.
- Add egg, vegetable mixture, noodles, and remaining 1 Tbsp. sesame oil to skillet. Mix everything so that noddles and vegetables are well coated with sauce and heated through. Serve with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.