K-popped! Kitchen: Japchae

I must admit, when Liz, Orchid and I went out for our Korean lunch in Beijing, I snubbed the Japchae. “Japchae? Why, it looks just like Chap Chai (Chinese mixed vegetable dish). I want to try something special!

In contrast to the Malaysian Chinese Chap Chai (consisting of napa cabbage, fermented beancurd, beancurd sheets, glass noodles and a smattering of other veggies), Japchae has a fresher, less complicated taste. Hmm, I can’t help but wonder if the American Chop Suey is a variation on these dishes. Is it?

I wasn’t able to find Korean glass noodles, which are made from sweet potato flour, but I did find a Chinese glass noodle variety packet which had tomato, spinach, carrot and pumpkin glass noodles!

I couldn’t decide on which to use, so I used a little of everything. Besides, their mild flavours were indistinguishable to me anyway. These noodles are firmer (not chewy) and more opaque than the glass noodle made from mung bean flour. Perhaps these are closer in texture to the Korean glass noodle.

Anyway, less talk, let’s get to the good stuff!

Step 1: Ingredients!
Anything! It seems to me that Japchae is another dish that helps rid your fridge of vegetable odds and ends! The sauce and glass noodles make this dish. This is what I had in mine:-

Oops, glass noodles not pictured.
  • Glass noodles (about 1cup of cooked noodles)
  • Spinach, chopped
  • Beansprouts
  • Sliced red bell pepper
  • Sliced green chillies (fresh jalapenos)
  • Carrots julienned
  • Mushrooms – pictured here are enoki (or golden needle) mushrooms and sliced oyster mushrooms
  • Dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked until softened
  • Scallions chopped 1” in length
  • Minced ginger and garlic (save some for sauce)
  • Firm tofu sliced

In a small bowl combine 3tbsp light soy sauce, 1tbsp honey, 1tbsp sesame oil, 1tsp cracked black pepper, 2tbsp rice wine, 1tsp minced ginger, 1tsp minced garlic and 3tbsp hot water. Stir and set aside.

Step 2: Cook the noodles!
Boil glass noodles in water for 15 minutes (depending on the kind you get. Mung bean noodles take a shorter time to cook). Run cooked noodles through cold water and drain then set aside. I like to toss in some sesame oil to keep the noodles moist while it waits for me.

Step 3: Prepare the tofu!
Season with black pepper and a dash of salt. Pan fry with vegetable oil until golden brown. Set aside.

If you prefer meat instead you can use beef (cut into strips). Make a little extra sauce and marinate the meat for 20mins before pan frying. I bet chicken, squid or shrimp would work too.

Step 4: Stir fry!
On medium-high heat, add sesame oil into a wok or large skillet. When oil is hot, add minced garlic, ginger and oyster mushrooms. Toss for one minute then add the chillies, carrots, bell pepper, wood ear mushroom, spinach, scallions, enoki mushrooms and bean sprouts. Stir fry until vegetables are tender.

Add vegetables in order – hard to soft (e.g. carrots before bean sprouts) –
to avoid overcooked mushy veggies.

Once vegetables are tender, add the glass noodles, tofu (or meat) and sauce. Stir fry until sauce has coated ingredients evenly. Dish up and serve!

If Japchae still seems dry after adding the sauce, add some hot water.

Step 5: Eat!
Garnish with a sprinkle of toasted black sesame seeds and serve with hot rice. A quick, simple, guilt free meal!

More K-popped! Kitchen
Su jeong gwa (Persimmon Tea)
Tuna Kimbap
Kimchi Jjigae