What is japchae? No Korean feast is complete without this colorful glass noodle dish made up of a beautiful medley of vegetables and meat. Luckily, a delicious japchae recipe is easier to make than people might think.
This festive dish might seem intimidating to make at home but it’s important to remember that it’s basically just noodles with sauce that you can layer with any number of vegetables and meat. If you want to save time, use as many pantry shortcuts as possible including pre-cut carrots, pre-washed spinach, and pre-made bulgogi.
My husband has a funny but somewhat traumatic story about japchae that he never fails to mention every time I make this dish. A friend of his in college who was the daughter of a general in the Korean army offered to make her japchae recipe for a dinner party he was hosting. She asked to use my husband’s kitchen to cook since she lived in a dorm. She and her friend spent hours making this elaborate dish and when finished, she opened the refrigerator to put it inside to cool. Startled, my husband tried to stop her telling her that japchae is best served warm.
The friendly back and forth got increasingly heated as both parties felt quite strongly about their opinions and the debate abruptly came to an end when the friend threw the whole dish of japchae against the wall, breaking the bowl and sending the contents sliding down onto the floor. This of course ended the debate and eliminated any further need to discuss the optimal temperature for japchae. Many lessons to be learned here. Perhaps the best one being don’t mess with Korean women especially when they are cooking for you.
This japchae recipe will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days and heats up well in the microwave. In my humble opinion, japchae is best served as soon as it is made which is warm, but I will not argue with anyone who wants to eat it cold!
Yield: 4 Servings, Time: 45 min
Adapted from Korean Bapsang
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar or brown sugar (do not pack brown sugar)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp roasted sesame seeds
- 6 oz Korean potato starch noodles (dangmyeon, 당면)
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small sweet onion
- 2 scallions
- 4 ounces lean beef (sirloin or rib eye)
- 4 – 5 white mushrooms (or dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until plump)
- 6 oz fresh spinach
- vegetable oil for stir frying
Make the sauce and soak the noodles in cold water for about 30 minutes.
Marinate the bulgogi (skip this step if you have pre-made meat)
Sautee onions, carrots, mushrooms, and meat. Best to sautee everything separately and do not overcook the vegetables as you want them to be soft but crisp. Set aside
Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds then drain quickly and shock in cold water. Squeeze out excess water, cut into about 2-inch lengths.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the noodles according to the package directions (usually 5 – 6 minutes). Rinse in cold water and drain. Cut the noodles with kitchen shears once or twice. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the prepared sauce in a large bowl.
In a large non-stick skillet, stir fry the noodles over low/medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent and a bit sticky (about 3 minutes). Transfer back to the bowl.
Add all the vegetables and meat to the noodles along with the rest of the sauce, and mix with tongs or by hand.