Spice up seafood with jjamppong

I have recently formed an uneasy truce with the spider who lives in my laundry room. I always find her on the wall next to the window. Sometimes she suddenly appears from behind the open dryer door to give me a little fright after I’ve transferred tiny socks and pajamas into the upper machine.

Often, she skitters upward to the ceiling and to the far corner behind our stacked set as soon as I turn on the light. I keep hoping she will find her way out on her own and return to the expanse of the garage, out of my immediate company, but day after day we meet and eye each other with wary suspicion. Stay where you are, I say to her, and we can both move on with our day.

We have a strict catch and release policy in our house when it comes to our eight-legged friends — none will be purposefully squashed when they could be returned to the wilds of our back porch. If I ever catch her off guard, and low enough on the wall for me to grab her, straight in the cup she will go but, to my great annoyance, I have yet to find her in such a position.

I wish I could tell you that I didn’t name her the most cliché of spider names, alas, little Charlotte is what I call her when I complain to her about her presence. It would be terrific if I could finally put her outside where she belongs.

I find it strange how I would never dream about cooking and eating the creepy crawlies that live on land, but the many-legged creatures of the ocean are a welcome treat for my dinner. This Korean spicy seafood noodle soup, jjamppong, is served in a huge bowl loaded with springy noodles and tender seafood in a crimson broth.

Ingredients for two large servings:

4 cups chicken stock

2-5 tablespoons of Korean hot pepper flakes (depending on spice tolerance)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon salt

5 green onions

3 ounce leek (about 2 inches) cut into strips

1 cup of cabbage cut into bite sized pieces

½ of a white onion, sliced

½ cup carrot, cut into matchsticks

6 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced

8 mussels, cleaned well

6 large shrimp, peeled and cleaned

6 ounce squid, sliced into rings

¼ pound bay scallops

Two portions of Korean jjajangmyeon noodles (if you have them) or fresh ramen or udon will work


Cook the noodles in a large pot of water. When done, strain and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Scrub the noodles with your hands to remove as much of the starch as possible. Set aside.

Make the seasoning paste by combining the Korean pepper flakes and sesame oil in a small bowl.

In a wok or large pot, saute the garlic and ginger in a little vegetable oil until fragrant and slightly browned.

Add the seasoning paste to the pot and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Add in the green onion, cabbage, onion, mushrooms, and leek and stir until the vegetables have wilted slightly.

Add the 4 cups chicken stock plus about 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer.

Add all the seafood, cover, and cook for another five to seven minutes.

Put in the fish sauce and taste before adding salt — you might not need to add much. This is also when you might add more red pepper flakes if you are looking for more heat.

Reheat the noodles in hot water before portioning them into your largest serving bowls.

Ladle the boiling soup over the noodles and serve.