A few months back I came across a recipe for chap chae, a Korean dish of noodles, but not a a noodle you’d expect. Chap chae noodles are made from sweet potato starch. I wrote about my adventure cooking this dish for the first time. The noodles turn clear when cooked, hence the English name: glass noodles. You can find lots of recipes online but the one I made I came across on saveur.com. And cooking karma was at work … the author of the recipe is Kyung Up Lim, the executive chef at Michael’s New York. And I know Michael.
He’s an alum of the school I work for and every year I host a School Year Abroad event at Michael’s New York and this time Michael made a point of introducing me to Kyung Up. I was so excited. I told Kyung Up all about how I made his chap chae and he was humbled. So much so that he even mentioned it the next day to staff.
I love seeing Kyung Up’s work just about as much as I love eating it. Especially the hors d’oeuvres. I mean, look at the photo to the right. These were quickly placed on a plate for a colleague to enjoy while manning a registration table. These were not the plates that were being passed among the guests. This was a “let me get you something to nibble on” presentation. Bite-sized morsels with flavors that pack a punch and dance in your mouth. The delicate appearance and precise assembly of each bite makes you wonder if they are not crafted by hand, but rather an assembly line. How can they look so perfect?
It brings me back to when I was a child in my house and my mother said over and over and over again, “dette er bare for pen,” which roughly translated from Norwegian means, “that’s just for show.” In other words, don’t touch it. You’re tormented when you see the presentation. It looks too nice, it must be one of those things that is just for show. I went straight back to 1st grade and didn’t want to touch it or ruin the artistic layout. I could hear my mother telling me“dette er bare for pen.” Who wants to be the first person to disturb the yin? Or is it the yang?
It took a while, but once my colleague reached up the nerve, she took a bite, then another, and then another but not before I got into the action. Some things are meant to be touched. And eaten. My mother wasn’t there to yell at us. Yin and Yang are fine.
Make the chap chae.