Japchae Noodles: The Best Noodle You’ve Never Tried

Here, our writer Melissa Baron dishes up a fun, informative taste of the week. She may also slip in a health tidbit from time to time, because #balance. 

------------------------------

Raise your hand if you know what the heck japchae noodles are! Hint: it’s a type of noodle. Hint to self: Think of better hints. 

Also called glass or cellophane noodles (due to their transparent appearance), these spaghetti-counterparts are made from sweet potato starch and witchcraft. I say ‘witchcraft’ because they taste nothing like sweet potatoes or veggies of any kind. This is not your mom’s veggie pasta. And although I’m a big consumer of zoodles (they’re low in cals and high in fiber), those impastas (pun very much intended) are no noodle.

Japchae means “mixed vegetables” in Korean, but the noodle itself is only made with sweet potatoes (which are technically a starchy tuber, but I digress). The name comes from the mixed vegetables included in the dish, which also contains stir fried beef or pork. 

While you can certainly whip up delicious japchae yourself, here are a few restaurants in the Boston area that serve up this reasonably-priced dish: 

Koy Boston -- 16 North St, Boston

Try their stir fried japchae with marinated beef bulgogi and seasonal vegetables. 

Kimchi Kitchen -- 847 Cambridge St, Cambridge

Try their house-seasoned japchae, tossed with a variety vegetables. Add protein, but keep it vegetarian, with tofu. 

Buk Kyung Korean Restaurant -- 9a Union Square, Somerville or 151 Brighton Ave, Allston

Try their japchae, stir fried in sesame oil and with pork and veggies. 

You may also come across the noodles that are made with starches of other veggies including yam, cassava and mung bean. While I have only tried japchae with sweet potato noodles, I’d expect to enjoy the other varieties just as much. 

So for those of you looking for gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy free and Paleo noodles that also taste good (read: not like cardboard), look no further than japchae. They’re impastable to resist! 

 

Single And Ready To...Hula?

Here, our writer Melissa Baron dishes up a fun, informative taste of the week. She may also slip in a health tidbit from time to time, because #balance. 

------------------------------

Although I’m happily married, this Valentine’s Day, I’ll be single.

While that phrase could be interpreted in many ways, or just generally be confusing (because it is), I’m only trying to say that my husband will be out of town on V Day. Which is a bummer.

It’s a bummer because this is practically the only day that you can oogle over your S.O. and stare deeply into each other’s eyes in public without getting eye rolls from everyone else. It’s also a bummer because I’m rusty at taking myself on a date.    

Since I’m unpracticed, I did a test run for my big date at Drink in Fort Point. The restaurant is almost entirely made up of a massive bar, snaking its way from one end to the other— ideal for a solo date. Soft-light Edison bulbs decorate the ceiling (light EVERYONE looks good in) and there’s not a stereotypical “sports bar” TV in sight.

While Drink has a wine list and modest food menu, the guests decide the cocktails. Not wanting to waste this opportunity for creativity on a vodka soda (I highly recommended against it), I asked the bartender, Rob, for a drink that says, “I’m here to enjoy my own company and maybe strike up a conversation with my bar mate.”

Pausing for a minute, he decides I need a Bohemian cocktail. The in-house invented drink was a fusion of gin, fresh grapefruit juice, St. Germain and bitters, and it was fantastic. The gin was strong enough that you knew it was there, but not too overpowering. The grapefruit juice added a touch of sweetness, but not too much.

While sipping my summery drink, I struck up a conversation with Ezra Star, Drink’s general manager. After revealing I was doing a practice run of solo dining, she told me, “Drink is great for single guests because it's not the type of bar where people get unwanted attention.” And, bonus points, she said that single guests rarely have a wait to be seated.

I asked her what to expect on Valentine’s Day. She explained that Drink’s V Day plans--Hula with Your Honey--will include tiki-themed drinks and punch bowls to share. For single people that venture out, Ezra said that Drink will have a punch bowl for one, with two straws, so lone guests can “have a good time on their own” (if you know what she means).

So if you want to oogle into your own eyes this Wednesday, check out Drink. Its creative drinks, cozy environment and short wait time is the perfect cocktail for your happy hour of one.

Be sure to check back next Sunday for the next WD!

Nothing Goes Together Better Than Grilled Cheese And…

Here, our writer Melissa Baron dishes up a fun, informative taste of the week. She may also slip in a health tidbit from time to time, because #balance. 

------------------------------

We all know the second food in that combo (except my husband, who never had a snow day or a childhood, apparently).

Either way, in honor of this humble comfort dish, today is National Homemade Soup Day. Because, you know, soup doesn’t get enough recognition the rest of the year.

But before I dig into my review, let’s learn a bit.

Where did this combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup come from?

Our friends at J.L. Kraft and Bros. Company (ring any bells?) first introduced their spoil-free cheese in the early 1900s. Then during WWII, Navy cooks were known to have made “American cheese filled sandwiches” for sailors due to the sandwiches’ long shelf life and easy preparation. Following in the footsteps of the military, other institutions including schools added the easy cheese sandwich (not to be confused with an Easy Cheese sandwich, which sounds terrible) to their lunchroom menu.

So how does the tomato soup fit in?

Since tomatoes are a good source of vitamins, school cafeterias served the soup along with the “toasted cheese” sandwiches in order to fulfill school lunch Vitamin C requirements. (Editor’s note: ketchup/tomato paste/pizza sauce are still considered vegetables for school lunches.)

Regardless of how you feel about the validity of this veggie, there’s no arguing that a warm bowl of tomato soup and a melty, cheesy, buttery sandwich is precisely what’s needed for National Homemade Soup Day. So check out this souper easy (couldn’t resist) homemade tomato soup recipe , and since it’s not National Homemade Grilled Cheese Day, head over to Roxy’s Grilled Cheese in Central Square and order the Hot Honey Bacon grilled cheese.

The HHB is made with Vermont cheddar, muenster, fontina, North Country Smokehouse bacon and Mike's Hot Honey--no Kraft American cheese in sight.

Roxy’s has a great seating area if you want to eat in, and a secret arcade with retro games in the back room(!) if you want to relive your childhood of playing games and eating grilled cheese--but with beer. Otherwise, get that sandwich to-go because you have some soup to make! Although, I promise I won’t tell if you decide to crack open a can of Campbell’s instead.

Be sure to check back next Sunday for the next WD!

It's Worth Shelling Out The Money

Welcome to the first-ever Weekly Digest! 

Here, our writer Melissa Baron dishes up a fun, informative taste of the week. She may also slip in a health tidbit from time to time, because #balance. 

------------------------------

You can never get enough seafood living right next to the ocean. The only problem is that lobster (pronounced: lab-stah) ain’t cheap.

For those of you wanting to feel fancy (because you’re eating lobster, crab or shrimp) but be hip (because it’s served in a bag and you wear gloves), then look no further than the Shaking Crab and it’s newest Boston Common location.

The seven locations of the Shaking Crab serve up Cajun-style seafood in a savory, aromatic and spicy sauce of your choice, and it's delivered to the table in a bag. Yes, you eat out of a bag. The bag is given a little shake (you’re at the Shaking Crab, get it?) to ensure even sauce distribution. Now it’s your turn: tie on your bib, put on those gloves, and get down to business.

Catering to both college students (an Emerson building is literally directly above them) and theatergoers, this newest location at 140 Boylston St. mirrors the décor and menu of the other restaurants, but co-owner Kevin Duong stresses that each location has its own personality. To start, this location is the first to have two stories.

“Our restaurants are high energy and communal, but not stuffy,” said Duong, greeting us at our table wearing a bubblegum pink shirt.

High energy is certainly what we got. The place was jam-packed for its “friends and family” test drive last Monday. With wait staff moving quickly between tables, taking orders on tablets, the scene was a bit chaotic. But that’s certainly to be expected for an opening night.

We started with cocktails (obvi). I ordered the color-changing gin and tonic, which you’ve got to try. Adding the tonic water turns the gin from a bright blue to a lilac color. So you can impress your friends with a lil magic trick and get tipsy--a win-win in my book.

For dinner, we each ordered the shrimp and mussels combo. Yes, the shrimp still had their heads on, and yes I enjoyed ripping them off (a great post-work stress reliever). The order came with 1 lb of shrimp and ½ pound of mussels all for under $20 bucks--a great bang for your buck.

And oh my goodness the smell. Absolutely heavenly. It’s the fragrant garlic that Duong insists on using plenty of in the recipes--including the mac and cheese side dish.  The waiter brought an order to the table next to us and I just about helped ma’self.

Ultimately, we had quite an enjoyable experience at the Boston Common’s newest seafood joint--friendly, tasty and worth shelling out the money for. Although, with reasonable prices, you don’t have to shell out much.

Shaking Crab Boston opened on January 23 for dinner, and will serve lunch and dinner on the weekend. Visit www.shakingcrab.com for more.

Check back next Sunday for the next WD!