Money-Saving Meal: Chapchae

I watched the show “Extreme Couponing” on TLC for the first time a few weeks ago … and may I say … #$%*@#$? eekThe show documents people who clip coupons and go to any lengths to save money on groceries and other necessities. And I mean any lengths – from dumpster diving to stealing coupons from a driveway of foreclosed houses in the neighborhood. This is not a hobby but a way of life for these extreme coupon clippers and they spend the amount of time equivalent of a full-time job to prepare for their shopping spree. The reward is magnificent, where they often walk out of a supermarket saving 90 to 100% of their total grocery bills. It’s very typical to see people walk out with $600-plus worth of groceries without paying a dime … or even a penny!

I must admit that the show fascinates me and disgusts me all at the same time. While it is unbelievably refreshing to discover that someone has finally found the way to completely manipulate the system, it troubles me to see such excessive behaviors. Really, who needs 100 bottles of laundry detergents, 500 cans of soda, 100 boxes of cereal, and other mostly unhealthy, processed food items in their garage-turned mini mart? I feel like there isn’t much difference between extreme couponers and hoarders. The only differences, maybe, are that the latter is super organized and they don’t have 20 dead cats in the house. But excess is still an excess and it is very disturbing. Good thing the show “Intervention” is right around the corner on A&E.

Although I won’t be spending 40 hours a week clipping coupons and comparing prices on a jar of peanut butter from store to store, the show did have one positive impact. It made me realize that I need to rethink my own shopping behaviors. I think there are two things that I need to constantly remind myself of: 1. Plan ahead to reduce food going to waste; and 2. Cook at home to save money. So, here’s my first attempt at dining at home and using up everything I have in the fridge and the pantry.  This Chapchae recipe is so easy and you don’t even have to go dumpster diving for it!

Chapchae, Korean-style noodle and vegetables
Serves 2

This is where I apologize in advance. Although Korean cuisine is one of my favorites, I don’t have much background knowledge on it; therefore, I might have butchered the culinary tradition by making my version of this popular noodle dish, like the way Rachael Ray does with all her “ethnic” dishes. If I offended any hardcore Korean cooks or Korean food lovers, I am very sorry. redface


4 oz (or half package) Harusame noodle (this is the Japanese version of the Korean glass noodle)
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
½ onion, sliced
Small ginger (maybe ½ the size of your thumb), finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, julienned
½ green pepper, julienned
3 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoons agave nectar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ cup of water from shiitake mushroom reconstitution
Sesame oil
1 tablespoon Doenjan, or Korean soy paste
Salt and pepper to taste


Mix soy sauce, mirin, sake, agave nectar, Daenjan, sesame oil, and vinegar in a bowl and set aside. Cook harusame per instruction on package (usually boiling noodle in bubbling hot water like pasta). When cooked, set the noodle aside. It’s best to stop cooking when the noodle is still a bit coarse. You will have a chance to cook them some more in a sauce later.

Heat a separate medium-size pan and sauté all vegetables, garlic, and ginger with sesame oil until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked noodle into the vegetable mix. Pour the sauce mixture and cook until the liquid is completely gone. You can serve immediately or serve chilled. I like to pour some more vinegar and a dollop of hot sauce.  Enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Money-Saving Meal: Chapchae

    • how much did you spend per serving do you think?

      p.s. i heard “per very minute you spend at a grocery store = you spend about $1”

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