Japchae is so simple for a meal that is so good. It’s a Korean stir fried vegetable, beef and noodle dish that’s a common staple in Korean homes. I still can’t believe when I make it that the only seasonings are soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar – but mixed with all of the ingredients and noodles, it comes together into a fanastically flavorful dish. I’ve made this recipe a few times before, but always with rice noodles or soba noodles. When I found the actual authentic Korean sweet potato noodles in an Asian store the other day, I knew japchae was in my future.
When looking for the noodles, you want to find clear (slightly grey), dried noodles, and the first ingredient should be sweet potato. The noodles do NOT taste like sweet potato, oddly enough, they just taste like plain good noodles. They will likely be in the dried noodle aisle of most Asian supermarkets. If you don’t have one near you, this meal is still really wonderful when made with soba noodles or any rice or cellophane noodles you can find.
The recipe calls for beef, which really does make it good and gives a ton of umami flavor. But I have been sacrilegious and made it with shrimp instead, which I loved, and if you omit the meat altogether or add tofu, the meal becomes vegan (and is still very good).
The recipe looks long, but most of the steps are just chopping veggies and then stir frying each of them individually. The meal is actually pretty easy to prepare once you get into it, so don’t be intimidated! And if you need to see what should be done, please refer to Maangchi’s video, which is how I learned this recipe. She is the Korean food queen and she makes it look easy.
Japchae (Korean stir fry noodles with vegetables)
Recipe adapted slightly from Maangchi
Serves at least 4
2 bunches of Sweet Potato glass noodles (see post or Maangchi’s video for details)
150 grams of beef (optional if you are vegan)
2 handfuls of spinach or baby spinach
1 medium size carrot
1 medium size white onion
handful of dried sliced shiitake mushrooms, or 3 fresh ones
1 package white mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
7-8 green onions
soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, pepper, and sesame seeds
Prepare your ingredients before stir frying:
Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water at least 30 minutes until they become soft, or if using fresh shiitake, slice them. If using dried, drain after soaking. Slice a package of white mushrooms (2 cups’ worth). Cut a carrot into thin matchstick-shaped pieces. Cut 7-8 green onions into 7 cm long pieces. Slice one white onion thinly. Slice 150 grams of beef into thin strips.
Boil 2 bunches of noodles in boiling water in a big pot for as long as the package says to boil them (should be between 5-8 min). When the noodles are soft, drain them and put in a large bowl. Cut the noodles several times by using scissors (they’ll be long) and add 1 tbs of soy sauce and 1 tbs of sesame oil. Mix it up and set aside.
Boil the bunch of spinach in a few cups of water and stir it gently for 1 minute. Then take it out and rinse it in cold water. Remove any grit or dead leaves thoroughly while rinsing. Squeeze it gently to get the water out, then cut it into bite sized pieces. Add ½ tbs soy sauce and ½ tbs sesame oil and mix it and place it in the large bowl.
On a heated pan, put a few drops of olive oil and your carrot strips and stir it with a spatula for 30 seconds-1 minute. Put it into the large bowl. Repeat, frying the onion until translucent and putting into the big bowl. Next, fry the white mushrooms until beginning to brown on both sides, and add to the bowl. Next, fry the green onions for 1 minute and place in the bowl.
Place a few drops of olive oil on the pan and add your beef strips (if using) and your sliced shiitake mushrooms. Stir until it’s cooked well, then add 3 cloves of minced garlic, ½ tbs soy sauce and ½ tbs sugar. Stir for another 30 seconds and then put it into the large bowl.
Add 3 tbs of soy sauce, 2 tbs of sugar, 2 tbs of sesame oil, and 1 tsp of ground pepper to the large bowl. Mix all ingredients very well, then sprinkle 1 tbs of toasted sesame seeds on the top.