As I have mentioned before, I absolutely love Korean food. It’s famous for its heat and funk, but it has a deliciously sweet and mild side too. No dish exemplifies this side better than Japchae, stir-fried glass noodles.
It’s a simple dish, and ubiquitous in Korean restaurants, where it is pressed into service as a banchan (little side dishes theat come with every self-respecting Korean meal) as well as served as a main course. Japchae is a delicious introduction to Korean food: With its slippery, chewy glass noodles – made from sweet-potato flour – and mild but addictive soy-and-sesame sauce, it’s a hard dish not to like.
The preparation of Japchae is simple, too. The noodles are boiled, then tossed in a hot pan with cooked vegetables and a simple mixture of soy sauce, mirin (sweetened rice wine), oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Stir it all together until the sauce turns the slightly greyish noodles a tempting, glistening golden brown, and you’re in business.
Japchae makes a great vegetarian dish, and that’s how I’m presenting it here, but just toss in some cooked chicken, steak, or what-have-you when you add the noodles if you’d like a meaty version. I used a mixture of shiitake and king oyster mushrooms, but any mushroom would be good, including the oft-maligned but really quite tasty white button mushroom.
I found this recipe – well, a version of it, anyway; of course I made changes – in the cookbook Koreatown. I’ve been looking for a Korean cookbook that really inspired me, and I’ve found it! Watch for a full review soon.
- 8 ounces dried sweet-potato noodles
- 8 ounces fresh spinach or other green or 4 ounces broccoli
- 2 tablespoons peanut or mild vegetable oil
- 1/2 red or yellow onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup julienned carrot
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 3 cups sliced mushrooms of your choice
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to taste
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil, plus more to taste
- Sesame seeds to taste