If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I love the idea that our world would be a merrier place as the result of placing “food and cheer and song above hoarded gold!” Food is an adventure at our house, and most Sunday evenings you’ll hear an Andersen break into song in the kitchen or around the table. I think Tolkien was on to something. If you are interested in taking your meals to the next level, you need variety and a bit of creativity; fight the urge to make the same dishes over and over again. You may know how I rely on my well-stocked pantry. I sing the praises of knowing flavor profiles, and I use both to make it possible to bring new and interesting dishes to the table… even on a weeknight.
Our family loves Asian food, and I have recently discovered Korean sweet potato noodles. These glassy noodles are similar in texture to rice noodles, and make an excellent alternative to wheat noodles for individuals with gluten sensitivity. They form the basis for a signature Korean dish – Jap Chae. In creating this Sweet Potato Noodles With Chicken, Shiitake, & Chard, I was looking to capture the essence of Korean jap chae, but not really aiming for authenticity. Again, I stock my pantry with Asian sauces and ingredients, so all I have to do is pick up a few fresh items. In this case I only had to pick up a bunch of rainbow chard from the Natural Grocer just a half-mile away.
This dish is simple enough to prepare for a weeknight dinner, and interesting enough to serve for a dinner party. If you focus, you can have it on the table in 30-45 minutes. I typically listen to music and drink a glass of wine, so it takes me about 45 minutes. Traditional jap chae typically has spinach and carrots. I love to cook whatever looks the freshest, and our market has had gorgeous rainbow chard for weeks now. I buy my peppers at Sam’s Club a half dozen at a time, and I always have them on hand. Thus I decided to go with the chard and bell pepper combination on this go ’round. I have loved the results with spinach and shredded carrots as well. Fresh shiitake mushrooms are a hit or miss proposition in Las Cruces, but I keep dried shiitake in my well-stocked pantry, and they make a worthy substitute for the fresh.
This makes a wonderful vegan main dish without the animal protein. I personally love tofu, and I would not hesitate to add it to this dish in place of the chicken. My preferred method of cooking with tofu is to slice into 1/2″ thick slabs, press between layers of absorbent cloth or paper towels to remove some of the moisture, cube, then stir-fry with a bit of sesame oil and canola oil until it begins to brown. Remove from the wok, and set aside. Add back into the dish with just a toss prior to serving. This will keep the tofu from disintegrating… For more information on preparing tofu, see Thai-Style Butternut Squash Curry.
20 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
35 minTotal Time
- water (for noodles - large pot)
- 8 oz. sweet potato noodles*
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce**
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar (packed)
- 4 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms (or 2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms)***
- 1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
- 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated or minced (about 2")
- 1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs*
- 1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, julienned
- 1 bunch rainbow chard, washed, trimmed, ribs sliced, and leaves coarsely chopped
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 2 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted
If using dried mushrooms, in a ceramic bowl, cover with boiling water, place a plate or lid over top, and allow them to soften while you proceed. This additional step requires about 30 minutes.
Put a large pot of water on to boil. When the water is boiling, add sweet potato noodles. Cook 5-6 minutes - until al dente. Drain, rinse, return to pot, and sprinkle with sesame oil. Toss to coat. I take my kitchen shears to the noodles and cut them in a few places to make them more manageable. Set aside.
Mix sauce ingredients in a small prep bowl until sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.
Thin slice the chicken.
Prep all the vegetables - including the mushrooms if using fresh. You can combine the sliced chard ribs with the bell pepper in a prep bowl to be added at the same time. The chard leaves wilt quickly, and should be added separately.
If using dried mushrooms, drain liquid, remove stems (I clip them off with kitchen shears), and slice. Set aside.
Chop your scallions, and place in a small prep bowl. Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan, and set aside in another small prep bowl.
Preparation is key in wok cooking because it goes so quickly. When all the ingredients are ready to go, place your wok or saute pan over high heat. Add the vegetable or canola oil to the pan. When it is hot but not smoking, add ginger and garlic. Stir with a bamboo or wooden spatula.
Add chicken. Stir-fry until cooked but not dry. Remove from wok, and set aside.
Add a bit more oil to the wok if it is dry. Add bell pepper, sliced chard ribs, and shiitake (or other mushrooms) to the wok. Stir fry until tender but not soft - about 2-3 minutes.
Add chicken back into the wok. Add noodles and chopped chard leaves into the wok. Pour the sauce over the top, and using a large fork or tongs, toss well to combine.
To serve, use tongs to place on a plate. Garnish with a bit of scallion and some toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!
* These are also called dang-myeon, glass noodles, Korean vermicelli. They are made with sweet potato starch and water, and turn translucent when they are cooked. They have a lighter taste than pasta, and a pleasant chewy texture. br]
** [Regular soy sauce is fine in this dish. Use a good quality. It is also fine to substitute "dark" or "light" soy sauce. Do not use "thick" soy sauce. br]
*** I keep dried mushrooms in my [well-stocked pantry . They require softening in hot water for a couple of hours, or boiling water for about 30 minutes.