What is Japchae?
Japchae is a Korean dish so popular and delicious that it was featured at the United Nations Food Festival in 2006. Traditionally defined, Japchae is sweet potato glass noodles with vegetables and meat, but literally it means, “mixed everything,” which makes it pretty tough to screw up!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1/2 pound of extra-lean, RBST-free sirloin
- 12 ounces of Korean vermicelli
- a handful of thinly sliced shitake mushrooms
- 1 cup each of julienned white onion, carrot, and cucumber
- 1 thinly sliced red pepper
- 5 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
- salt and ground pepper
- sesame seeds
Alternative Japchae Ingredients
There’s a lot of room in this recipe for flexibility, so be creative with your ingredients. If you like spinach or green onions, toss ’em in! If you’re a vegetarian, skip the beef. And if you’re adventurous, try topping off your Japchae with fish cakes, fried egg, or oyster sauce.
There are four basic elements to this dish: the meat, the vegetables, the noodles, and the sauce.
Prepare the Japchae Noodles
Start by placing your noodles in a bowl of room temperature water to soften – about 30 minutes should work, just so long as the noodles become flexible. Next, it’s time to marinate the beef.
Make a Japchae Marinade
In a small bowl, combine the following: soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, and minced ginger. Now, this mixture is also going to work as your sauce, so take about half and set it aside for later. If you decide to skip the meat altogether, remember to reduce the amounts of these ingredients by half.
Prepare the Beef
Cut your sirloin into medium-sized strips, about 2 inches across. Resist the urge to stab the beef with a fork, which can cause a loss of juices that keep it moist and tender, and submerge in the soy sauce mixture for about 30 minutes.
Stir Fry the Japchae Ingredients
And now it’s time to fry! In a wok or large pan, add a thin layer of sesame oil and set your heat to medium high. As soon as the oil is hot, toss in your mushrooms and stir fry with a dash of salt, for about 3 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside for final mixing.
If you’re running short on time, you can always stir fry all your veggies together, but, cooking each ingredient separately will allow each to retain its own unique flavor and color for the final presentation.
Proceed with the onion, carrot, cucumber, and red pepper, adding oil as necessary. Next, stir fry the sirloin until it is no longer red, being sure to discard any marinade that has been in contact with the raw meat.
Stir Fry the Noodles
Remove your softened noodles from the water and cut into smaller pieces, then cook them in a pot of boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water, then stir fry the noodles in sesame oil for about a minute.
Toss the Japchae Stir Fry in Marinade
As we come down the homestretch, toss your noodles, beef, mushrooms and vegetables with the sauce you set aside earlier, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a flat plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds for a final touch. This recipe should generously make about four servings . JapChae is a great “make-ahead” dish that will keep in your fridge for a couple days, but – I can never wait that long.