Japchae is a delicious Korean dish made from noodles called dangmyeon (Korean: 당면), which are cellophane noodles made from sweet potato starch. These are then stir fried in sesame oil with vegetables (typically thinly sliced carrots, onion, spinach, and mushrooms), served with beef, and flavored with soy sauce and other seasonings. Japchae is simple, easy-to-make and wonderful for dinner with a Korean twist!
The sweet potato noodles are transparent, basically tasteless and also happen to be totally gluten-free. You can buy them from your local Korean/Asian grocer or from Amazon here.
This dish is served at Korean parties and special occasions, with seasonal vegetables added. It is usually served garnished with sesame seeds and slivers of chili and may be served hot or cold.
The origin of this dish is quite fascinating. Japchae was first made in the early 17th century, when the Joseon Dynasty reigned supreme over the Korean peninsula.
When King Gwanghaegun hosted a party at his palace, one of his lieges, Yi Chung, created this dish to please the king’s palate. The king liked it so much that he rewarded his liege by promoting him to the position of “hojo panseo”, equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury for the whole kingdom!
Quite a dish indeed. ☺
My version is totally authentic and includes a bit of Korean black garlic to add additional umami flavor. Black garlic is a type of caramelized garlic developed in Korea – it is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves. The taste is garlicky, sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar and is one of the best flavors I know of. You can get it from Amazon here.
Enjoy, my Citizens!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
7 ounces sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of soju (a Korean liquor, preferred) or mirin (sweetened Japanese sake) – if neither are available, try a mix of ½ teaspoon honey with ½ teaspoon white wine)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil (Kadoya brand preferred)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
9 ounces sweet potato starch noodle (dangmyeon -당면)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Kadoya sesame oil
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cloves fermented black garlic, crushed
1 bunch of leek (boo-choo 부추) or 3 spring onions, cut into thin strips
1 pickled carrot, cut into thin strips – (make by slicing thin strips of carrot into rice vinegar, leave 1 hour, drain and use)
12 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
5 ¼ ounces spinach leaves
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, crushed
3 tbsp Kadoya sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp black pepper
FOR THE OMELET:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1. For the beef: mix all of the beef ingredients together in a bowl, cover and marinate in the fridge for at least half an hour.
2. For the noodles: prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and rinse them in cold water. Place in a mixing bowl with the noodle seasoning mixture and toss until coated.
3. For the omelet: heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. When hot, pour in the eggs to make a thin omelet. Cook slowly for 3-4 minutes, to avoid browning the omelet, then flip over and cook the other side until set.
4. Slide the omelet onto a chopping board and fold in half. Cut into 5mm strips, season with a pinch of salt and set aside.
5. For the vegetables: heat the vegetable oil in a wide, deep-sided pan over a medium heat. Tip in the onions and garlics and fry gently, without browning, for about 5 minutes, until softened and translucent.
6. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the marinated beef and any juices in the bowl and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the leeks/spring onions, carrots, mushrooms and spinach. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
7. Tip in all the remaining vegetable ingredients, plus the noodles and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until the noodles are glossy and hot through. Add omelet shreds and serve at once. I do not find this dish to keep well in the fridge, so do not plan for leftovers – which shouldn’t be an issue. 😉