Japchae is one of Korea’s best-loved dishes, made from stir-fried sweet potato starch noodles with various colorful vegetables and meat.
I had been making a lot of sweet stuff lately, so I thought that it would be nice to eat something healthy and nutritious for some change. Then, I saw these beautiful-looking noodles japchae from my weekly Korean TV show. This authentic stir-fry uses sweet potato noodles that are naturally low in calories and various vegetables for a meal that is healthy, easy, and delicious.
What is Japchae?
Japchae (잡채) literally means “mixed vegetables.” However, the main ingredient of this classic dish is dangmyeon (당면). Dangmyeon is pale grey, semi-transparent, chewy, and elastic noodles made from sweet potato starch. It is also known as glass noodles, cellophane noodles, or sweet potato vermicelli. The noodles are mixed with assorted vegetables, meat, mushrooms, and seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil.
The assortment of vegetables in japchae may vary, with typical ingredients including carrots, spinach, onions, egg, and scallions. Commonly used mushrooms are wood ear, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms. Both beef and pork are commonly used for japchae. Each ingredient is stir-fried separately before being mixed with the boiled noodles.
Japchae is once a royal dish. However, it is now one of the most popular traditional celebration dishes, often served on special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, and holidays. It is commonly served as a banchan (side dish), though it may also be eaten as a main dish. It is sometimes served on a bed of rice, also known as japchae-bap (잡채밥). The dish can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold from the refrigerator, and can be eaten freshly made or the day after.
Why Do You Cook The Ingredients Separately?
Some might argue that cooking the ingredients separately is unnecessary. However, that’s the essence of making japchae. Why? Because you can enhance their individual flavor, texture, and color better by cooking them separately.
Each ingredient has a different texture and cooking time. You don’t want the ingredients to be overcooked or undercooked and lose the flavor and texture by cooking them all together. You also don’t want your vegetables to get stained from the other vegetables. For example, your onion may become orange or red due to carrot or red bell pepper.
How to Make It Vegan?
For traditional japchae, thin strips of beef or pork are added along with various vegetables. To make vegan japchae, simply substitute the meat with more mushrooms or tofu. Marinate with the beef seasonings to make them more flavorful.
How to Store The Leftovers
Leftover japchae should be kept refrigerated. It will keep well for 3 to 4 days and reheat nicely in the microwave. The noodles will get soft and chewy again when reheated.
More Korean Recipes
Are you a Korean food lover? While you are here, check out also other Korean recipes from my blog.
- Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Rice)
- Kimchi Kimbap
- Korean Rice Cakes with Honey
- Hotteok (Sweet Korean Pancakes)
- Kimchi Fried Rice