LCHF

Japchae 잡채 (Sweet Potato Noodles with Beef & Vegetables)

One of Korea’s most loved dishes, japchae seems to be one of those dishes that can be found almost everywhere and at any time. Be it at breakfast, dinner or at a party, japchae is almost sure to be a feature. Like so many national dishes in Asia, food can represent so much more than just a tasty meal; in the case of japchae it is all about colour and harmony. Translating as “many kinds of various vegetables” japchae is made with the five colours that the Koreans believe reflect obang saek or world harmony to you and me. Each colour symbolises one of the five universal directions – North (black: beef/mushrooms), East (green: courgette/cucumber), South: (red: carrot), West (white: onion) and, most profoundly, the Middle (yellow: egg).

World harmony aside, the best news about japchae is that it is banting and LCHF friendly! Okay, so there is a bit of sugar in the recipe, but at its core japchae’s sweet potato starch noodles are a great low carb alternative to the regular wheat variety and taste infinitely better than courgette noodles.

Noodles without the carb-induced guilt; now what could possibly be better than that?

To be honest I was a bit hesitant about trying japchae when I first encountered it at a breakfast buffet in Seoul. I had tried cooking with Korean sweet potato noodles previously and it was a bit of a disaster, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it another go. I’m so pleased that I did! Chewy, beefy and incredibly satisfying; from the first bite I knew japchae was going to be one of the first Korean dishes I would attempt to recreate when I got back to my kitchen in Cape Town.

As it turned out, making japchae at home is relatively easy and aside from the sweet potato noodles themselves, all the ingredients are Asian store-cupboard staples. The only real difficulty is that the numerous components of the dish need to be individually prepared and cooked before being assembled, but other than that it is actually pretty straight-forward. Just don’t be tempted to soak the sweet potato noodles for longer than 30 minutes or overcook them as this will affect their texture.

Most of the japchae I had whilst in Korea actually didn’t contain any meat so if you would like to make a vegetarian version of the dish simply omit the beef. If you do, however, want to make a meat version then you can also substitute the beef steak with some mince instead.

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

For tips on stocking a Korean Pantry, please click here

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Asian Coleslaw

Lets be honest, coleslaw has been called many things over the years but trendy has never been one of them – at least until now, that is.

A salad stalwart of 80s potluck dinners, coleslaw has since been pretty much relegated to being nothing more than a questionable side-order to a greasy bucket of chicken – a lazy attempt to elevate our deep-fried indulges into something that resembles a balanced meal! Thankfully, however, these days coleslaw has made something of a comeback and is looking (and tasting) better than ever! Personally I think coleslaw owes its unexpected revival to the recent trendy-burger movement: after all what is a gourmet burger without a helping of gourmet sides?

Truffled skinny fries, tempura onion rings and umami ketchup, it was only a matter of time before coleslaw got in on the action and got a much needed makeover. Whilst the Western incarnation of coleslaw has undergone somewhat of a reinvention, the greatest evolution of the dish is, however, truly manifest in Asian Coleslaw. An ubiquitous name at best, Asian coleslaw is really just regular coleslaw but with a fusion twist.  Don’t get me wrong, regular ‘slaw is awesome, but Asian ‘slaw is simply next-level awesome! Whilst no single ingredient turns regular coleslaw Asian, the star of this particular version of Asian coleslaw is undoubtedly the sesame seeds, which add a wonderful toasted flavour that suits the rich creamy tang of the mayonnaise.

Perhaps one of the best things about coleslaw is its versatility. Traditionally the only two mainstays of the dish are white cabbage and mayonnaise, other than that you can add or omit just about anything. Try making it with some shaved fennel or replace the spring onion with thinly sliced regular onion. Leaving out the sultanas and  doenjang (Korean soy bean paste) would instantly make for the perfect LCHF side dish. Of course if you really wanted to push the boat out you could always substitute the sesame seeds with toasted pine nuts, but given the exorbitant price of pine nuts it does rather feel like an extravagance too far for something as humble as coleslaw.

To call this a “recipe” is somewhat of a stretch as making coleslaw is really just an assemblage of ingredients rather than an actual recipe per se. Okay so there is a fair amount of chopping involved when making any coleslaw, but if you have a decent mandolin handy then there really isn’t anything to it. It seems almost criminal that something so good can require so little effort, but it does and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little obsessed. I’ve been eating coleslaw with just about everything recently, but that’s because it goes with just about everything! Burgers, sausages, grilled chicken and tonkatsu / chikenkatsu (Japanese Pork / chicken schnitzels) – all make the perfect companion to a healthy dollop of ‘slaw!

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Charred Courgette Ribbons with Capers & Mint

 Charred Courgette Ribbons with Capers & MintRich in potassium and virtually carb-free, courgettes are a vegetable worth getting excited about. Inexpensive and readily available, courgettes are perhaps second only to the mighty cauliflower when it comes to surviving any Banting/LCHF diet. That coupled with the fact that they are also rather delicious, it should come as no surprise that I’ve been eating a lot of courgettes lately! Simply sautéed, slow-braised or grated and eaten raw, courgettes are anything if not versatile.

Recently, however, but I’ve taken to grilling them on the braai.

Whilst not a natural-born braaier, I just acquired a fabulous new gas braai (an early 4oth birthday present), so I’ve understandably become a mite braaiverskrik of late and have been grilling up a storm at every given opportunity! I’ve been braaing virtually everything I can get my hands on and given that courgettes are pretty much omnipresent in my fridge, it was only a matter of time before they too found their way onto the griddle. As it turns out courgettes and a flaming griddle are a marriage made in barbecue-heaven, making them one of my favourite vegetables to get the flame-grilled treatment!

As with most good braai salads, this particular concoction was born out of what happened to be lurking in the fridge at the time. The zingy capers work an absolute treat with the smoky charred courgettes, the sprinkling of cheese gives the dish depth and the blast of fresh mint lightens the whole dish.

Deliciously summery…now lets get that braai started!

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Thai Coconut & Lime Marinated Chicken

Marinating is truly one of the greatest forms of culinary alchemy.

Like turning lead into gold, a good marinade can be equally as magical, morphing even the most mundane into something utterly delicious in a matter of hours. However, perhaps the best part about marinating is the transformative affect it can have on cooks, having the ability to turn novice kitchen dabblers into proficient cooks overnight!

Coconut & Lime Marinated ChickenA fool-proof way of jazzing up a couple of tiresome skinless chicken breasts, this Thai inspired marinade is both quick to make and requires only a few basic pantry ingredients. However, as easy as this recipe is, the marinade does require one thing and that’s enough time to work its magic. Personally I would leave the chicken to bathe in the marinate overnight, as this will give the meat fibres enough time to break down sufficiently and for the flavours to penetrate right through the chicken. If you really are rushed for time then a few of hours will suffice, but it will be to the detriment of the final result.

While far from authentically Thai, the coconut and lime marinade does impart a taste of the Orient whilst still being mild enough to appeal to most tastes, making a good mid-week family meal or something slightly different to serve at a braai/BBQ. Cooked, cooled and then thinly sliced, this chicken also makes for a wonderful sandwich-filler or salad-topper. However, my favourite way of serving it is with a massive pile of stir-fried julienned vegetables, making this the perfect Banting/LCHF dinner option.

This marinade’s versatility isn’t, however, limited to the ways in which it can be served, as the marinade can also be used on just about anything. Whilst I’ve used skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, the marinade would work just as well with any other chicken pieces, pork or fish. If you are going to try it with fish though, I would recommend using a firm white fleshed fish and restrict the marinating time to no more than an hour.

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Skinny Sweet Potato “Fries”

Undoubtedly the best thing to come out of my recent flirtations with the Banting lifestyle is a renewed love affair with sweet potatoes.

I’ve always been fond of sweet potatoes, but they have never really been a major part of my diet. These days, however, I can’t seem to live without them. Whilst still a carbohydrate, luckily sweet potato finds itself on the Banting Orange List, making it the “occasional carb” of choice for many of us on LCHF diets. Provided they are eaten in moderation, this Skinny Sweet Potato Friestuberous gem is nutritious, tasty and most importantly, relatively guilt-free. Chock full of goodness, sweet potatoes are high in Vitamins A, B6 and C, beta-carotene, potassium, antioxidants and contain enough dietary fibre to account for 16% of your RDA. That’s a lot of ‘goodness’ packed into a humble root vegetable!

The nutritional value of sweet potatoes aside, what ultimately makes them so popular is their versatility; they can be used to make soup, mashed, microwaved, oven-roasted, gratinéed or glazed, although the latter is most definitely not for those of us avoiding sugar! Currently, however, my favourite way of preparing sweet potatoes is to use them to make skinny fries.

Cooked in a hot oven, skinny sweet potato fries are just the absolute bomb. Easy to make, healthy and incredibly tasty, these skinny fries are downright irresistible, making them almost TOO good! Personally, I prefer skinny fries over making sweet potato wedges as their ‘skinniness’ encourages a light singeing of the edges, resulting in a ‘burnt’ bitterness that perfectly plays against the inherent sweetness and earthy tones of the vegetable.

Trust me, wholesome has never tasted this good.

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Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo & Walnuts

Like most food bloggers, I am not without the occasional food obsession. Between walnuts, curly kale, kimchi and an alarming appetite for Peppermint Crisps, my obsessions of choice are as varied as they are peculiar. Currently, however, I can’t seem to get enough of brussels sprouts, so much so, I’ve taken to eating them by the veritable fistful. Thankfully, however,  this particular obsession is one of my healthier food fixations.

Widely regarded as one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, brussels sprouts are packed full of nutrients (especially Vitamins C & K), protein and dietary fiber. Banting approved and suitable for those of us who are slaves to the LCHF lifestyle, ‘sprout are even reputed to have cancer busting properties. What more could you ask of the humble ‘sprout? Oh, and they just so happen to taste bloody amazing too!

However, all that said brussels sprouts nevertheless remain a hard-sell.

Bitter and cabbage-like, unfortunately ‘sprouts have always suffered from a bad rep. What, however, is the root of our collective loathing of this much maligned wonder-food? As with almost everything in life, you can probably blame your parents. Most of us bear the childhood scars of being force-feed our greens by well-meaning parents and (with perhaps the exception of the dreaded broccoli) arguably the most detested vegetable was the poor brussels sprout. When most of us think about the ‘sprouts of our youth, we remember them as part of a typical Sunday roast, invariably boiled to within an inch of disintegration. Is it any wonder most of us smothered them in gravy or fed them to the dog on the sly! Sadly, never has such a noble vegetable been treated so poorly and by so many. Whilst many of us remain understandably traumatised by our early experiences, I have actually come to enjoy boiled ‘sprouts and they are almost always part of my roast dinners. More recently, however, I’ve taken to sautéing my ‘sprouts and I have never looked back!

Quick, tasty and incredibly healthy, shredding and sautéing your ‘sprouts is the ultimate way to enjoy this nutritious vegetable. A versatile side-dish, sautéed ‘sprouts go well with any roasted/grilled meats, sausages and burger patties, and whilst they are delicious just shredded and then lightly sautéed on their own, there are endless ways of jazzing up the dish. Add some diced bacon, red onion, mushrooms, red chilli; the options are limitless and all tasty. My personal favourite combination is with some chorizo, spring onion and walnuts – add a runny fried egg on top and you’d have my own personal cruciferous Banting-bliss on a plate!

Obsessed!

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Miso Butter

Broccoli with Red Pepper and Miso Butter

Broccoli with Red Pepper and Miso Butter

Okay, so I have confession. I can hide it no longer: I’m a closet Banting/LCHF dieter.

At least I’m trying to be.

Admittedly, I’m not yet a complete high-fat convert – I’m sorry, but butter in tea?!? Seriously, I’m not a Tibetian yak herder; so thanks, but no thanks. I have, however, taken to a reduced carb diet and have developed a new obsession as a result of an increased fat intake – miso butter!

Simple and insanely tasty, miso butter is a must-have staple in everybody’s freezer – whether you subscribe to Banting or not. Quick to make, the miso butter ‘log’ can sit in your freezer almost indefinitely. Not that it will last that long as you will probably end up eating it with everything!

Great on grilled steaks, vegetables, grilled chicken and burgers – miso butter will perk up virtually any meal.

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Sang Choi Bao 生菜包

Sung Choi Bao I have always been slightly obsessed with Sang Choi Bao, but in a world gripped by LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) & Banting diet fever, this classic Chinese dish has found a renewed appeal. Literally translated as “lettuce package”, Sang Choi Bao is made with fatty pork mince which is then eaten encased in crisp lettuce leaves, making it a great option for those of us who are avoiding traditional carbs like rice – something that is quite hard to do with Asian food!

Like most Asian recipes this one does have a few specialist ingredients, all of which are readily available from good Chinese supermarkets, but feel free to leave out whatever you can’t source. The key to the dish is actually in the sauce and the various vegetables, rather than the recipe’s more exotic inclusions. Okay, so this recipe does call for a small amount of sugar (not strictly Banting, I know), but you can just leave it out if you are so inclined.

Substantial and satisfying, this tasty dish scarcely feels like a meal that forgoes anything; and although it certainly isn’t conventional, Sang Choi Bao is also delicious when eaten with rice.

Traditionally eaten with your fingers, Sang Choi Bao is great fun to eat, making it a good dish for sharing. I suggest serving it up in a big bowl surrounded by the lettuce leaves and just let everybody tuck in. You can expect lots of sticky fingers after dinner!

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Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비

Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비A friend of mine once suggested that Koreans have contributed nothing laudable to the modern cultural collective. A tad harsh perhaps, though given the culturally devoid trite that is k-drama and k-pop, she may have had a point. In my opinion though (Psy aside), Koreans get a bad rap and deserve a little bit more credit then they are typically afforded; Korean cuisine is a case in point.

Along with the ubiquitous kimchi, Koreans could also teach the world a thing or two about how to barbeque. Whilst not to everybody’s taste, Korean cuisine has only recently made its mark on the international food scene. Its spicy flavours are gaining popularity at an astounding pace and is the current darling of Asian-fusion cuisine (did somebody say kimchi taco?).

Typically considered the preserve of Antipodean, South African and American cultures, the Koreans are in fact prolific barbequers. Koreans will barbeque virtually anything, but they especially love their beef. Be it sliced steak (bulgogi) or strips of beef short ribs (galbi), the Koreans take great pride in their barbequing traditions, and with good reason – it tastes incredible!

Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비So what makes a Korean Barbeque Korean? As with any barbeque, the secret is in the marinate. Sweet and salty, the marinate for galbi is a triumph of flavour, both familiar and exotic. The addition of puréed pear not only adds sweetness, but also helps tenderize the meat.

Whilst the marinate works well with any cut of meat, galbi is specifically made with beef short rib. The way the meat is cut is also slightly unusual, in that it is thinly cut across the grain and along the bone. Each slice of meat should include 3 pieces of bone and can be grilled whole or divided into three pieces and cooked individually. If you can’t source this particular cut of meat, the marinate will also work a treat on pork or any beef cut.

Another thing that sets Korean Barbeque apart is how it is typically served. Apart from the traditional Korean side dishes (banchan) stalwarts of rice and napa kimchi, galbi is normally cut into bite sized pieces, wrapped in a lettuce leaf along with some carrot, cucumber and chilli. It is then smeared with a spicy Korean sauce called ssamjang. Rice aside, this is Banting/LCHF Bliss personified (just leave out the honey/sugar)!

Note: Whilst you can get away with marinating your meat for less time, ideally this marinate needs at least 18 to 24 hours to work its magic.

For more Korean recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Korean Pantry, please click HERE

For more braai/barbecue recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click HERE

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