Monday, January 17, 2011

Korean Chop Chae

I made chop-chae for lunch today! For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a Korean dish that includes noodles, vegetables and (in the case of the particular recipe I used) chicken. I'm going to be devoting an entire section of my blog to Korean dishes because I lived in Korea for a few years and now that I'm not there anymore, I miss the food. Plus, I've discovered in the past year or so that I not only enjoy baking, but also cooking as well.

When I first decided that I wanted to go to culinary school, I was mostly interested in the baking side of the culinary arts, but now, as I've been cooking more and more meals at home, I'm learning that I like cooking meals just as much as baking. It's actually got me thinking about widening my plans in regards to culinary school. I'm still mulling things over and deciding which way I want to go, so we'll see what happens.

Anyway, today's recipe is Korean Chop-Chae and, despite the numerous steps it entails, it's a fairly easy dish to make. The ingredients for this recipe are: soy sauce, sugar, garlic, sesame seeds, chicken, vegetable oil, an onion, carrots, bean sprouts, spinach, cellophane noodles, and sesame oil.

You start off by cutting the chicken into bite-size pieces. Then you combine soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and sesame seeds in a bowl, add the chicken, and let it marinate for a few minutes. Then heat up a large wok and cook the chicken. The chicken goes into a covered bowl, the pan gets washed, and then you start on cooking the vegetables.

Now here comes the slightly annoying part of the recipe; you have to cook each of the vegetables separately. In other words, heat oil in the wok, cook the onion, add the onion to the bowl containing the chicken. Then do it again: heat oil in the wok, cook the carrots, add the carrots to the chicken. And so on, for each of the vegetables. Eventually you get a big bowl full of chicken and vegetables, and even though it's somewhat annoying having to cook each one separately, it's not difficult or, really, all that time-consuming.

After all the veggies are cooked, you boil the noodles until they are done, add that to the chicken/veggie mixture, and you're nearly done. Top it with a little more soy sauce, sugar and sesame seeds, add a little sesame oil, mix and voila! You've got Chop-Chae!

All in all, it took me between 45 minutes to an hour to complete the recipe, including peeling and chopping all the veggies. So, not too bad. Below is a picture of the finished product. The picture also includes some chopsticks and Korean wedding ducks to carry out the theme of Korean food.

As for the taste of the dish, it was pretty good, considering it was my first attempt at making chop-chae. I think that maybe the carrots could have been cooked a little bit longer (as they were still a bit on the crunchy side) but overall it was very yummy and reminded me of my days in Korea, and my hubbie went back for a second helping so it obviously wasn't terrible.

The only thing about this recipe that I didn't like is... well, I guess there are two things. One, the recipe says to heat the oil on high and then cook the veggies, which of course made oil pop and splatter everywhere. If it hadn't been for me buying that mesh pan covering a while back, I would probably have several burn marks on my skin from all the oil!

The second thing I didn't like about the recipe is that it includes onions. I don't mind so much the fact that it has onions, but more the fact that I had to chop the onions. I think that my eyes have an over-sensitivity to onions. I mean, I know that onions make your eyes tear up, but seriously I even so much as look at an onion, and my eyes start watering. Ok, so maybe it's not THAT bad, but really, it's bad. My eyes were watering so much I had to just put the knife down and walk away for a minute there because I was afraid I'd cut myself.

I have heard that lighting a candle and setting it next to you while you're chopping an onion can help, but I'm not allowed to light candles in my apartment complex. Does anyone have any other good ideas for keeping your eyes from watering when chopping an onion? If you do, I'd REALLY like to know, cuz I'm at a loss for what I can do about it.

Anyway, that's all for today. To summarize, I made chop-chae, it was yummy, and onions make me sob. Good night, all!

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