I made this recipe a few nights ago on a whim because my fasting husband lacks all creativity when he is hungry. It's odd, someone who loves food and eating as much as he does, draws a complete blank when I ask him so kindly, "What would you like to eat for dinner babe?" (Yes, as my brother so appropriately teased us about, "babe" has replaced first names in our house...sometimes when I actually call him by his name, and vice versa, we both pause and let the name linger in the air nostalgically and awkwardly before moving on). He'll look at me with this blank stare, as if I just asked him why the cost of tomatoes at the grocery store cost 20 cents less this week than they did last week. One time, when I asked him on the phone, he was so silent I hung up thinking it was a dropped call. Ramadan has dulled his cravings, oddly enough, and has made 30 days of coming up with creative and satisfying meals a very tough feat!
But, I know he loves Korean food. He just salivates at the thought of Bulgogi beef. Kimchi makes his eyes glassy. The other day we drove past a Korean restaurant, and the car slowed as he gazed up at it in fascination, as though it was the Statue of Liberty, shining her light down on him. This visceral reaction to Korean food is endearing, I must admit. I know you're probably thinking why don't I indulge him and just go eat at the restaurant, let the blood flow through his veins in excitement? Well, I will admit that my reasons are a little selfish...in those restaurants with open grills like Korean restaurants commonly have, you leave smelling like cooked spicy beef. The smell intoxicates your clothes and sticks in your hair, so on the drive home the fumes coming off smell like you're still in the restaurant. Not a big deal? Yeah, well, tell that to all the women who straighten their hair...the last thing you want to happen is your recently pressed hair to get frizzy from the humidity of the food being in front of you releasing beefy steam, and your previously glossy hair to smell like cooked cow. So there.
But I digress…Glancing through Food Network magazine during my workout, I came across a recipe for Korean beef noodles and thought of my pale, thirsty husband counting down the minutes to when he can break fast (it was 8:41pm that night), and I said, "Bingo!" In hopes of bringing some life into those fasting cheeks, a Korean-inspired meal seemed like the golden ticket.
While shopping, I couldn't find a few of the ingredients, like the cellophane noodles and the skirt steak that the original recipe called for. So I got spaghetti instead, and bought a package of thinly sliced sirloin steaks (this particular package had 3 thin steaks. I used 2 of them for this recipe. But you can buy any cut of meat you like, just make sure you slice it into very thin strips against the grain). I didn't use shiitake mushrooms either, because my grocery store doesn't have a bulk mushroom bin and I wasn't going to drive 20 minutes to Whole Foods to spend $15 on 5 mushrooms! So if you want to, you can use shiitake mushrooms—if not, then just use a package of the pre-sliced mushrooms and save yourself the money and the headache. I added green onions just because I happened to have an absurd amount of green onions in my fridge when I bought some one day, forgetting that I already had some chillin’ at home. So I threw some into this dish.
Oh, and one more thing: because there is more pasta in a box of spaghetti than the recipe requested, I doubled the sauce mixture and tweaked it with a few extras.
Needless to say, my "babe" loved it. I don't know if it was the hunger talking, but he had a second helping later, so I think it's a winner. And a bonus: these noodles are really good cold, too.
KOREAN BEEF NOODLES
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
I bunch green onions, thinly sliced to the green
1 hot pepper (your choice) thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb sirloin steak, thinly sliced against the grain (can also use flank or skirt steak, whatever you like)
1 package sliced mushrooms
1 cup shredded carrots
3 large handfuls of baby spinach (about 6 cups)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
5 dashes hot sauce, optional
10 tablespoons sesame oil (honestly, I didn’t really measure my oil, but I added a good amount. Just make sure your pan is coated when you start adding the veggies. If they start to look dry add more. If I had to guess, I'd say total was 10TB)
2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons flour
Combine sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce and half of the minced garlic, and 3 tablespoons oil in a bowl.
Put the sliced meat in a bowl and add a couple tablespoons of the mixture to the meat while you chop your veggies.
Cook pasta and drain when it's about a minute shy of being fully done.
In a big wok or pot (needs to be big enough to add in the pasta later), add 3 tablespoons oil and sauté the onions with other half of the garlic, red pepper flakes, and sliced hot peppers. Let cook and get soft, about 3-5 min. Then add the meat, and cook until just cooked through. Don't overbook the meat. Because it is sliced thin, it doesn't need long...Maybe 5-7 minutes in a really hot pan. Once cooked and the onions are soft, remove all and place in a bowl to the side.
Add the other 2 tablespoons oil and add mushrooms and carrots. Season with salt & pepper. Once the mushrooms get browned and carrots soft, add the flour. This will thicken the sauce a little so it's not too runny. Cook it out for about 2 min, moving all the veggies around until you can't see any more white of the flour. Add the meat back in with all the juice. Then add the cooked pasta, and then pour the sauce all over. Be sure to mix the sauce well before pouring, the sugar settles at bottom.
Using tongs, toss the pasta so all the goodness at the bottom gets mixed in. Let cook together for about 3 min, so that the pasta gets warm again. Then serve and enjoy!
P.S. For those of you who don’t eat meat, you could very easily substitute chicken or shrimp in for the beef. Or just don’t eat the beef…I’m just saying…