Japchae (Traditional Stir-fried Korean Glass Noodles)
Japchae is one of those dishes that is served at almost every Korean festive gathering and I grew up eating a lot of it to the point where I kind of grew tired of it. Growing up I remember many relative’s birthdays, Korean church picnics or family get togethers prepared heaping portions of colorful japchae noodles. They were either homemade or ordered from Korean catering shops run by women who reminded me of my own mother. The noodles were garnished colorfully and neatly arranged, saran-wrapped in restaurant sized aluminum tins.
To be honest, I really don’t make japchae much at home. Then in a recent conversation with my boyfriend, he mentioned his love for japchae and it inspired me to revisit this dish. Having been disappointed in the past by overly sweet japchaes with bland seasonings made with soggy noodles, I wanted to come up with killer japchae recipe. I wanted my japchae to be gleaming, aromatic and traditional. I decided to omit the sugar and focused on making the noodles as bouncy and shiny as possible. For me, the key to a good japchae are how the noodles are cooked and how well they soak up the seasonings.
I hope you enjoy my japchae recipe! I recommend eating japchae with other family and friends (because boy it comes out to be a lot of food), as it tastes best this way. :)
Prep time: 45 minutes
Serves : 6 to 8
17 oz package of dangmyeon or Korean glass noodles (make sure the main ingredient is sweet potato starch)
1 bunch of spinach, trimmed and washed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (~1 cup or 6 oz)
2 small carrots cut into matchsticks (~1.5 cups or 14 oz)
3 sliced green onions into 1 inch pieces (~1 cup or 8 oz)
1 cup of woodear mushrooms*
1 egg for Korean egg garnish or gyeran jidan (optional)
3.5 oz of thinly sliced beef (I used ribeye)
3 cloves of minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
(Marinade for the beef)
1 tbl soy sauce
1/2 tbl perilla oil**
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
(Seasonings for the noodles)
1/4 cup soy sauce + more to taste (preferably dark)
2 tbl perilla oil**
1 tbl sesame oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
finely ground black pepper
*You can substitute the woodear mushrooms with any mushroom of your choice. Shiitakes are also commonly added to japchae. If using dried woodears, make sure to rehydrate them for up to an hour in tepid water before use.
**if you do not have perilla oil, you may substitute with sesame oil instead.
How to make it
Bring a large pot filled halfway with water to a rolling boil. Add in a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the water. Add in the noodles, boil for two minutes, remove from heat and let sit in the hot water for 6 minutes. Drain the noodles in a colander but do not rinse under cold water!
Prepare your beef. In a small bowl combine beef slices, 1 clove of minced garlic, pepper, soy sauce and perilla oil and mix well. Set aside.
3. Prepare a medium pot of water to blanch the spinach. Water should come to a rolling boil. Prepare a bowl of ice cold water to the side as well.
4. Blanch your spinach for 3 minutes or until the stems have softened but the leaves become a bright green.
Remove from the hot water and place them immediately into the bowl of ice water to shock them and to stop the cooking process. This also preserves the bright green color to the spinach.
Once the spinach has fully cooled, drain into a colander. Squeeze excess water from spinach. Season with 1 clove of minced garlic, salt and 1 tsp of perilla oil. Set aside
5. Stir-fry your vegetables over medium high heat in a wide non-stick pan. Begin by adding in a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil to a heated pan and first stir fry the carrots for about 3 minutes. Add in a pinch of salt.
6. Add more oil to the pan and add in your onions. Add in a pinch of salt. Stir fry until the onions become slightly translucent and shiny, about 4 minutes.
7. Add in the green onions last and stir fry them for about a couple of minutes. Do not overcook. We want to maintain a nice green color. Place the veggie mixture in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Wipe down frying pan with a paper towel and return to heat.
8. Add beef mixture to the heated pan and sear meat until medium. Add in an additional tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 clove of minced garlic and the woodear mushrooms.
Stir fry mixture for about 4 minutes or until the mushrooms have absorbed the liquid in the pan.
9. Add another tablespoon of vegetable oil and one tablespoon of perilla oil to the mixture. Add in your noodles and half the soy sauce . Stir fry noodles for about 7 minutes or until they become to look more translucent.
10. Transfer the noodles to a large mixing bowl with the veggies. Add spinach, veggies, remaining soy sauce, pepper to taste, sesame seeds and sesame oil. Add in the egg garnish if you wish. Toss japchae with hands or tongs until all the ingredients have been mixed well. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve!
Japchae is best served fresh! Store any remaining japchae in the fridge for up to two days. Stir fry them again in a pan to reheat and reserve.