Japchae is a Korean stir-fry noodle dish with meat and vegetables. If you’re a vegetarian, you can omit the meat without it impacting the overall flavor of the dish. You can eat japchae as a side dish or main dish and it can be served hot or at room temperature. I remember when I was younger my mom making gigantic bowls of this noodle dish for large gatherings. Her japchae was always the best out of everyone else’s. This recipe is my attempt to replicate my mom’s version and I think it does a pretty good job at that!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Japchae is a dish that holds many ingredients; you can choose to eliminate some items or add your own such as bell peppers or another type of protein.
When you are re-hydrating the mushrooms, you will notice that the mushrooms float to the top of the water. Keep them completely submerged in the hot water by placing a weight on top.
After 30 minutes, look at the difference between the dried and soaked mushroom! When slicing, remove the stem, which can still be tough and chewy.
When cooking the spinach, keep an eye on the greens since it will cook very quickly. Immediately submerging the spinach in an ice bath will help preserve the bright green color. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water to prevent it from watering down the Japchae.
Although Japchae usually doesn’t have egg, just for kicks, I added it in today’s lunch. To make the egg, whisk 2 eggs together. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat with oil. When the pan is nice and hot, slowly add the egg to the pan. Swirl the pan around to make a thin egg crepe. Season with salt and pepper. When the egg has set on the bottom, carefully flip it over to cook the other side. Remove when done and cut 1/4 inch wide strips. Set aside.
Japchae uses glass noodles also known as sweet potato noodles. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for the glass noodles because they are quite unique in texture.
If you want to add meat to your japchae, you can add bulgogi, Korean marinated beef. You can find pre-marinated beef at Asian markets or make your own at home. I went with the pre-marinated version this time but perhaps next time I will make my own version (and share the recipe with you!). If bulgogi is not accessible in your area, substitute with sirloin beef. Slice it into thin strips, cook until no longer pink, and season with 3 tablespoons of the prepared sauce.
Once you have all your ingredients ready, it’s time to mix together!
Japchae is a very well known Korean dish and one of my favorites. It involves a lot of steps and can take some time, but it is well worth it. There’s a balance of sweet and salty from both the sauce and vegetables; even the bulgogi is slightly sweet. Japchae is best when eaten fresh since the noodles soak up all of the sauce as it sits. Serve as a side dish to your meal or enjoy as the main entree.
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