vegetarian japchae

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About halfway through Lent and my meatless journey. Sigh. To keep my tastebuds engaged I have to be inventive. So I adapted this beef japchae dish to make it vegetarian simply by substituting tofu for beef tenderloin. It was delicious.

Vegetarian Japchae

Tofu Marinade
1 1/2 cups extra firm tofu cut into strips
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon or to taste ground black pepper

Noodles
5 oz dangmyeon (Korean sweet potato starch noodles)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Everything Else
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more if needed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced into thin strips
1 cup red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
5 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1/4 inch strips, stems discarded (save stems to make vegetable broth)
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
2 green onions cut on the bias

For the marinade: combine tofu with garlic, sugar, soy sauce sesame oil and black pepper in a small bowl. Cover and marinate until ready to cook. Set aside.

For the noodles: add noodles to a large bowl of warm water and allow to soften, 15-20 minutes. Drain noodles, rinse with cold water and drain well. Toss noodles with sesame seeds, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil; set aside.

Cook spinach: In a wok, bring about an inch of water to a boil. Quickly cook the spinach on high heat until it turns bright green. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and set the color. Set aside.

Cook eggs: Heat wok over high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add beaten eggs. Swirl to cover bottom of pan. Cook until underside is set, about 1 minute. Flip. Cook until set, about 1 minute. Remove from pan to a large plate. When cool, cut into thin strips and set aside.

Cook veg: In the empty pan/wok, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. On high heat, stir-fry onions, carrots, and bell pepper until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.

Cook mushrooms and tofu: Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, if needed. On high heat, stir-fry mushrooms until browned. Then add tofu, reserving marinade, and cook, turning frequently, until just browned.

Assemble japchae: Add the sweet potato noodles. Taste. If more flavor is desired, add reserved marinade. Stir-fry until hot, 1-2 minutes. Add all reserved ingredients, except shredded egg. Stir fry until heated throughout, 1-2 minutes. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with egg strips and green onions. Serve immediately.

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