Sky diving. Cliff Jumping. Jet skiing. Tubing.
All these things were foreign words to me growing up. I always associated these rather “adventurous” sports things that only professionals on TV would do. You would never EVER see me volunteering to go on a 3-day camp out in the boonies or hiking up steep mountains during my free time. I’ve always preferred the comforts of the indoors over the wild adventures of the outside world. I guess if this was in the 17th/ 18th century… I would be the kind of perfect, domesticated daughter who would volunteer to stay at home and read books rather than play a game of crochet outside.
But its not the 17 or 18th century. And its Utah – the land of outdoor expeditions.
Before this summer, I would have never gone down to Moab and Zion’s National park camping; tubing down the Provo river; volunteering to serve at food kitchens; rock climbing on a late Monday night, paddle boarding in the Provo Lake …all these “crazy” things. But there I was doing everything and anything that I would’ve never imagined myself doing. Why? It all started with a single promise to a friend that I couldn’t break off. And then one trip led to another.
Every single time I ask myself the same question: why I am I still doing it?
Because there is just something satisfying about being able to do something you never imagined you could.
And here I was last Friday night with a group of friends standing outside a Latin Dancing club – asking myself the same question again – “What did I just get myself into?”.
Out of all the crazy things I had done this summer this was most definitely the one thing I would not compromise. Have you seen Latinos dancing? They were born to dance! Hearing all the music, the neon lights flashing, I grew nervous again. I think you could call it “dance phobia” or in simpler terms “stage fright”. Well the fact is, I CAN-NOT dance. Somehow dance moves on music videos just never looked the same when I attempted them.
But before I could say anything more my friends had gone in and paid all the entrance fees. It was terrifying walking in that dark hallway hearing the music. I silently prayed that it would end soon. Awkwardly, I started shifting from side to side (yes thats my best dance move), hoping it would end soon. But thankfully my friend perceiving my nervousness, just took me by the hand and demonstrated how to dance. I started copying him…and before the dance was over, I seemed to get the hang of it. And hey…it wasnt as bad as I thought.
It was great that none of us really knew how to do Latin dance so we just started doing whatever we thought matched with the beat. As more people started piling in we got a lot of stares. But you know what? I realized I didn’t care so much anymore because believe it or not I was having fun. Looking over at Zoe, she was glowing and laughing. Nothing seemed awkward or out of place, she just looked at happy and that was what mattered the most.
I’ve realized that there are always things each of us are scared of. Maybe its something we can’t do very well, or its something we’ve had bad experiences with it or maybe its because we’ve just never tried it before.
But you know what, if there was one thing I learned that night and this entire summer, it is to just TO GO DO IT! Yes I still get scared and I still ask that same question each time, but if there is ever a chance, take it because maybe, just maybe you’ll love it. And you will realize all those fears are really just all in your head. And even if it is just that one time, it will be an unforgettable experience.
There is something amazing about realizing that you have the ability to conquer your weakness or a challenge. Truth is dancing is still not my favorite thing to do or something I would actively seek to do, but I know I can move my hips with a little more confidence if I need to. And I learned that it could be fun. How grateful I am for the friends who pushes me and encourages me to try new things.
And as a result of this experience? I’ve begun to finally see a different side of me: not just the girl who can only cook or study, but someone with a undefeatable fighting spirit.
“Challenges are what makes life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – thats my new official motto.
I thought a lot about last Friday as we made Japchae this morning, simply because I failed so many times creating this. The all too familiar question: Why am I making this again? surfaced in my brain. This recipe, although may seem easy, just never worked out for me.
Korean Japchae (noodles) and Bulgogi was served at every single school fair growing up. We had a substantial population of Korean students in our school and their mums usually made the BEST food. I always scrambled in line with my scrunched up $30 bill (HKD) to pay for a plate of delicious sweet bulgogi, steamed rice and sesame-scented noodles. I loved it so much. In fact our entire family is crazy about Korean food. I grew up having Kimchi on the dinner table pretty often. We even had a Korean friend’s mum come to teach us how to make authentic Japchae at home. It was complex, time consuming and definitely very oily – but it was undoubtedly the most delicious thing ever.
Now, trial after trial, after failing so many times (because it did not stand up to what I had eaten growing up) I ask myself “Why am I making this again just to fail?”. But today, Zoe and I have nailed it. This is our healthier, faster vegan adaptation of this delicious noodle dish.
So if there is something you are afraid of doing, why not give it a try? Because trust me its worth it.
Oh for those who aren’t vegan or don’t like Asian food or aren’t into the healthy foods, give this recipe a shot. You never know – this Japchae might just be the most delicious thing ever.
Adapted from Maangchi
Ingredients – serves 4
- 4 oz spinach, washed/rinsed
- 1 tsp Kikkoman Soy Sauce (regular or GF)
- 4 oz Sweet Potato Noodles (dangmyeon)
- 1.5 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp Kikkoman Soy Sauce (regular or GF)
- 1 tsp Honey/sugar
Carrots and Onion:
- 1 cup carrots, julienned
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
- Salt and Pepper
Mushroom: Slice the mushrooms into thin strips. Marinade the mushrooms with the following ingredients. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.
- 4-5 oz mushrooms
- 2 tsp honey/sugar
- 1.5 tsp Kikkoman Soy Sauce (regular or GF)
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 3 tsp honey/sugar
- 3 tbsp Kikkoman Soy Sauce (regular or GF)
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- pinch of salt
- Sesame Seeds
How to Make:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then take it out with a slotted spoon or strainer. Let the water keep boiling to cook the noodles.
- Rinse the spinach in cold water to stop it from cooking. Squeeze it with your hands to remove any excess water. Cut it a few times and put it into a large bowl. Mix with soy sauce.
- Put the noodles into the boiling water, cover and cook for 1 minute. Stir them with a wooden spoon so they don’t stick together. Cover and continue cooking another 7 minutes until the noodles are soft and chewy.
- Strain and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towel.
- Cut with kitchen scissors. Put the noodles into the large bowl with the spinach. Add noodle seasoning: sesame oil, soy sauce, and honey. Mix well.
CARROTS & ONION:
- Heat up a skillet over medium high heat. Add in onion and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry about 2 minutes until translucent. Add a little water if sticking to the pan. Add to noodles.
- Fry the carrots into the same skillet, with a little water. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes seconds till cooked. Transfer to the noodle bowl.
- Heat up the skillet. Add the marinated mushroom. Stir fry until soft and tender (add a little water if it looks dries). Transfer to the noodle bowl.
- Add the seasoning sauce and mix thoroughly. MAKE SURE TO TASTE and adjust adjust seasoning according to preference (what we have given is just the very basic seasoning we used. We would recommend with you starting with less and adding more as you taste. Each soy sauce has different levels of sweetness and saltiness.)
How to Serve:
Traditional Method: Japchae or 잡채is a korean noodle stirfry made with sweet potato noodles or dangmyeon. These cellophane noodles are excellent at absorbing flavor and have a chewy bite to it. I loved these noodles because of their smooth texture. Japchae also means “mixture of vegetables” in korean – thus it contains a variety of colorful vegetables like carrots, spinach, egg, mushrooms, bell peppers. The distinct nature of japchae is that each vegetable is separately seasoned and stirfried, before all the components are mixed together in a large bowl with more seasonings. Unlike, chinese noodles or typical noodle stirfry everything is cooked and mixed in a pan, whereas japchae can be served cold with rice.
Our Suggestions: Japchae usually uses meat or more specially bulgogi (korean marinated beef) and contains a lot of sesame oil. We took out most of the oil from the dish and also marinated mushrooms in place of the bulgogi. This actually works so well, because mushrooms have the ability to suck and absorb all the flavors of the marinade turning them into nuggets of flavor. We also added a lot of sesame seeds for crunch and to make up for the flavor of sesame oil.
Vegans: Use agave/regular sugar instead of honey, but remember to taste and season. If you are using regular sugar only add in half the amount of honey since it is a lot sweeter than honey.
Paleo: Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Please taste test as you go to adjust the saltiness and flavor.
Mushrooms: Feel free to use any type of mushrooms. Usually shiitake will be used, but I find brown portobello mushrooms as a great substitute because it resembles the earthy-brown color of shiitake mushrooms.
Vegetables: Most people also add in red bell pepper. This dish is quite versatile so even bean sprouts, zucchini would be great additions in here.
Carnivore Lovers: You can add in 4 oz thinly sliced, beef and reduce the mushrooms to 2 oz of mushrooms. Place both in the same marinade. Make sure when you stir fry the mushrooms and beef that you cook until the beef is no longer pink.
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