Every week, as I plan my dinner menus, I ask the family what they would like to eat that week, and my son Jake usually asks for this Korean beef and noodle stir fry. Jake is our only son and youngest child. He was born in South Korea, and he has been an adopted member of our family since he was 12 months old. He is a terrific kid, and I’m incredibly lucky I get to be his mom. Jake is proud of where he came from, and maybe that’s the reason he loves this dish. Or maybe he just loves it because it’s so tasty.
This quick and easy stir fry has the flavors of bulgogi, a marinated grilled beef that is one of Korea’s signature dishes. A bulgogi-style marinade becomes a cooking sauce for a stir fry of ground beef, Napa cabbage, noodles, edamame and green onion, for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. I would describe this dish as a glorified hamburger helper, but it’s a whole lot tastier and better for you.To make this stir fry, you cook the ground beef, noodles and cabbage separately, then simmer the beef in the cooking sauce to make sure it absorbs the flavor, then combine all the ingredients and cook a few minutes more to make sure everything is heated through. It’s the cooking sauce, with its combination of salty, sweet and spicy elements, that makes this dish so addictive. Last time I made it, one of our college-age daughters stopped in for a visit, saw the leftovers in the fridge, and devoured them immediately.
I have a couple of ingredient tips that have helped make this dish a favorite at our house. For this stir fry, I like to use the one-inch pieces of angel hair pasta sold near the Mexican/Latin ingredients in most grocery stores (one popular brand name is La Moderna). They’re super-convenient for any dish where you want small pieces of pasta, and they cost around $.40 for an 8-oz. bag.
A second tip is one I learned from Melissa D’Ariabian of The Food Network. I used to get annoyed when I would buy fresh ginger, and it would dry up before I had a chance to use all of it. Melissa’s tip is to peel the entire knob of fresh ginger with a paring knife when you first buy it, then store the peeled pieces of ginger in the freezer in a plastic bag. It will keep for several months that way, and the frozen ginger is actually easier to grate. Now I always have ginger on hand when I want it, and I don’t have to throw away a piece that has dried up in the fridge.
Korean Beef and Noodle Stir Fry
For the stir fry:
- 1 package 1.25 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 8 oz. vermicelli or angel hair pasta broken or cut into one-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- One medium Napa cabbage about 2 pounds
- 4 green onions thinly sliced
- 1 package 8 oz. frozen shelled edamame
For The Cooking Sauce:
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup water or beef broth
- 3 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cloves garlic pressed
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon chili paste or Sriracha
- Clean and thinly slice 4 green onions and set aside.
- Remove and discard wilted outer leaves from Napa cabbage, if needed. Cut off end of cabbage, and quarter the cabbage lengthwise. Cut cabbage quarters crosswise into thin slices, wash sliced cabbage in colander or salad spinner. Set aside.
- Make the cooking sauce by combining all ingredients in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
- Microwave edamame according to package directions. Set aside.
- Cook the vermicelli according to package directions and drain in colander. Return pasta pieces to cooking pot.
- Add one tablespoon canola oil to the wok or skillet over medium high heat. Add the sliced cabbage; season lightly with salt. Stir fry for 3 minutes until the cabbage is cooked and beginning to soften. Remove Napa cabbage from skillet and add to pot with cooked pasta. Stir lightly to combine.
- Brown the ground beef in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat, stirring and breaking up into small pieces with a spatula. Season with salt and pepper. When the beef is done, drain in a colander to remove excess fat.
- Return meat to skillet. Add the cooking sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
- Add the noodles and cabbage to the beef, continue to cook and stir about 3 minutes until heated through. Add the green onions and edamame. Cook and stir 1-2 more minutes until hot.