A Tribute to All the K-dramas I've Watched: Pinoy-style Sotanghon Japchae
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A Tribute to All the K-dramas I’ve Watched: Pinoy-style Sotanghon Japchae

A Tribute to All the K-dramas I’ve Watched: Pinoy-style Sotanghon Japchae

Food & Entertaining | July 29, 2021
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With the K-drama fever going strong, Nina Daza-Puyat shares her recipe for Sotanghon Japchae, but with a Filipino twist. Meokja (let’s eat)!

In the first few months of the pandemic, I started watching Korean dramas—also known as K-dramas—on Netflix. I found myself looking forward to some quiet me-time after dinner when I could catch the next episode or two. Perhaps intrigued by my enthusiasm, the husband joined me, starting with Crash Landing on You. Soon after, Reply 1988 and Descendants of the Sun, we found ourselves deep into the K-drama rabbit hole.

In the last year and a half, we allowed ourselves this new form of entertainment—a welcome relief from the depressing news on TV. We laughed at how the wife would slap, beat and bully the husband (with me saying, “Aren’t you glad I’m not like that?!”) and also gushed and swooned during kilig moments between the hero and heroine.

We found ourselves charmed by the various storylines and impressed by the fabulous clothes, costumes, and location sets. It was a wonderful introduction to the rich, vibrant Korean culture. And with recent dramas like Vincenzo, So I Married an Anti-fan, Nevertheless, and a new season of Hospital Playlist (which many people are hooked on), it’s crystal clear: even now, the K-drama trend is still going strong.

A Look at the Korean Food Scene

The food scene, in particular, fascinated me and brought me to another world. I was captivated by the elaborate dinners laid out on the tables of wealthy families (both in modern times and in historical period dramas) and imagined how much time the army of cooks would spend just to prepare one special meal. Even middle-income families always managed a decent banchan spread, indicating that side dishes need not be expensive and can be made with almost any ingredient available.

Even the makeshift tent-restaurants—called pojangmacha—along city sidewalks looked inviting. Favored by the locals, they offer popular dishes and street food, usually paired with bottles of the ubiquitous soju. In Korean dramas, pajangmacha was where couples or groups of friends would often hunker down for a midnight snack—slurping hot spicy noodle soup on a cold winter’s night.

RAMENtic Musings on Korean Noodles

Ahh, yes. Noodles! I cannot remember how many types of Korean ramen I have cooked on account of watching these shows. I’ve experimented on a myriad of combinations of SPAM, egg, cheese, frozen dumplings, and kimchi—all of them upping the oomph factor of regular Korean ramen.

But there is another famous Korean noodle dish that is not quite as accessible to us Filipinos as those ramens in colorful packaging. And that is the Chap Chae or Japchae. Japchae literally means “mixed vegetables” and this recipe calls for a special type of cellophane noodles called dangmyeon.

Also known as glass noodles, these medium-to-thick, grey-colored noodles are made with sweet potato starch. When cooked, they become smooth and elastic with a soft and chewy texture.

Of Food Cravings and More

One night after a heartbreaking episode of Itaewon Class, I suddenly had a craving for some Japchae. I wasn’t in the mood for something bold, brash, and spicy like ramen—but rather, something sweet, gentle, and nourishing like Japchae.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have dangmyeon noodles in my pantry. After a quick search, though, I found sotanghon vermicelli. Ah-ha! Thinking quickly, I rummaged through my freezer and pounced on a small tray of ground beef. As for the veggies, I chose the holy trinity of Pinoy pancit: carrots, green beans, and sayote.

Photo from Sapporo

Determined to get my fix, I started prepping the vegetables and thawed a portion of ground beef. I also turned to my two favorite Korean cooking Youtube channels—Maangchi and Modern Pepper—to check out their take on Japchae. The recipe was already forming in my head and from there, I decided to make this a hybrid—a proudly Pinoy pancit with a decidedly Korean flavor.

About 45 minutes later, I was enjoying a bowl of deliciously sweet and savory Japchae with a satisfied smile on my lips. While I have yet to catch up on the newer K-dramas, I know that classic Korean dishes—even those with a Filipino twist—will always have a special place in my heart and on my table.

Here’s my take on a Korean classic, but with a Pinoy twist.

Photos by Nina Daza-Puyat

RELATED ARTICLES:

Musings on the Philippines’ National Merienda: Pancit Guisado

Lockdown Recipes: Comforting Food To Soothe Both Spirit And Soul

Cooking as a Sensory Experience


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A proud home cook and cookbook author, Nina is in love with the cooking process. She believes there's something magical about bringing random ingredients together to create a cohesive dish that's delicious, nourishing, and satisfying. She likens cooking in the kitchen to a dance, with its many movements, rhythmic sounds, and stimulating smells, all working together in perfect harmony and synchronicity.
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