Japchae is one of the Korean dishes I have cooked the most (it is probably tied with Kimchi Fried Rice). Koreans call this a “손이 많이가는 음식“, which translates to a dish that takes a lot of handiwork; however,this dish is worth all the effort. It takes longer than others because there is a lot of prep work: one must chop all the vegetables, marinate the beef, cook the vegetables and beef, cook the sweet potato noodles, and then add all ingredients together with a sauce, tasting along the way until it tastes just right.
This is one of my favorite dishes because it keeps well in the fridge and tastes just as good microwaved a few days later as it does when it’s fresh. The dish has noodles, vegetables, and protein so it is quite substantial; all you need is a bowl of rice to go along with it. Some people like to make japchae fried rice as well. The key to a delicious japchae is getting the sauce just right- you want the right balance of salty soy sauce with sweet sugar or honey, salt & pepper, and sesame oil. I like to start with a basic sauce and then keep modifying the taste at the end with extra ingredients until it tastes just right to me. Sometimes it takes five or so iterations of futzing with the sauce/seasoning at the end to get the desired outcome. I have the same issues when I make vinaigrettes. Loads of fresh cracked black pepper are key to making the flavors shine.
Japchae is common as a banchan at many restaurants so you don’t always have to order it separately off the menu. Surprisingly my favorite place to get japchae in NY is not at a restaurant in KTown, but at a buffet / deli, Café Duke, on 51st and Sixth. They have really perfected the sauce and just ladle it on. A non-Korean person actually told me I needed to try a delicious noodle dish they discovered and took me to eat it at Café Duke. I was really amused to see them ask for chicken instead of beef and extra red pepper flakes. This is akin to asking for a Philly Cheesesteak with chicken instead of beef.
Mise en Place, Japchae Ingredients
Sweet potato noodles, dangmyeon (당면). You can find these at your local HMart. Make this a gluten free Korean dish.
You can dress up your japchae with different color pepper slivers, sliced scallions, and thinly sliced fried egg.
Japchae is one of the most traditional Korean dishes. Gluten Free sweet potato noodles with an array of vegetables and beef in a sweet soy sauce.
- 1 lb thinly sliced beef or steak, I prefer ribeye
- 1 bell pepper (this recipe mixes green, yellow, orange and red)
- 1 onion
- 1 package shitake mushrooms
- 2 crowns of broccoli
- 1 package spinach (optional)
- 1 large carrot (optional)
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 package of sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon)
- FOR the beef MARINADE
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 sliced scallion
- 1/4 tbsp sugar
- FOR the SAUCE
- 6 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsp brown sugar or honey
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- Korean red pepper powder (gochugaru) can sub with red pepper flakes
- For GARNISHING
- 2 scallions
- 2 eggs
- sesame seeds
- Combine the beef marinade ingredients with the beef
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a cup and stir until all the sugar/honey is dissolved
- Slice the bell pepper and onion into medium size pieces. Cut off the stems of the broccoli and make midsize florets. Cook the bag of spinach in the microwave. Cut the carrot into small round pieces.
- Sautee the beef in a wok or skillet for 1-2min until they are rare (brown on the outside, red on the inside). You do not want to overcook the meat because it will be added back to the other ingredients and cooked in the final stages.
- Heat a wok with 2-3 tbsp olive oil over a medium flame and then sautee the vegetables. Toward the end of cooking add any pan juices from the beef.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and boil the sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon) for about 10 min. Keep tasting them until they are cooked through.
- Once the noodles are cooked through, add them to the wok wiht the vegetables. Stir fry for a minute over low heat with the sauce. Add the cooked rare beef to wok and stir fry together. Taste the mixture and add salt and fresh cracked pepper as you see fit. I add about 1/2 Tbsp of salt and a lot fo black pepper and Korean chili flakes. If the dish is still not flavorful enough at this point you can make more of the sauce and keep adding it to the wok until there is enough salt and flavor.
- Crack the 2 eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly. Cook the egg in a small fry pan, about 1min per side. Slice the egg into thin ribbons.
- Garnish the finished dish with the sliced egg, sliced scallion, and sesame seeds. You can optionally garnish with some quickly stir fried bell peppers like I did in this recipe's photo.
Korean red chili power (gochugaru) is optional. If you want to save time you can omit some of the vegetables.