Korean Komfort: Japchae (Stir Fried Noodles)

I learned a few exciting facts recently 1) Things become infinitely kooler if you spell them with a “k” instead of a “c” (I, obvs, am very aware of what is hip and “kool” with kids these days. Please see the title of this post for further proof) 2) My hands are incredibly shaky and thus make taking manual-focus non-flash photos very hard SO you’re going to have to bear with me while I get that under control 3) The “foodie” culture has officially become a subject of sociological research. I’m taking a course about “consumers and consumption” and we are currently reading “Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape.” Sounds fancy huh? I’ve been enjoying it so far. However, as our professor was describing “foodies” as upper class affluent folks that are secretly snobs using food to establish their social status and blah blah blah I felt a sudden pang of terror….I wondered…am I a snobby foodie?? Do I go to ethnic restaurants and read food magazines because I think they make me look high-class and cool?!? After some panicked soul searching I came to and realized that no, I don’t go seek out new foods, both exotic and familiar, because it makes me feel better than the people who haven’t experienced them yet…I do it because food. Is. AWESOME! Sooo yeah. I’m not a snob. I’m just really REALLY into food. Especially Korean food. Glad we cleared that up…

Sweet Potato Starch Noodles!! Or noodelfs, as my old roommate used to call them

Sooo japchae is basically sweet potato starch noodles and a bunch of delicious veggies stir fried in sesame oil. Yum. It’s delicious AND it’s vegetarian and gluten free! The idea of sweet potato noodles may be intimidating BUT they don’t taste too different from other noodles and they’re pretty easy to find. Any asian super market will have them and small asian markets might have them too. Still, if you’re in Vancouver then there are plenty of T & Ts to go to. The noodles are about $2 a pack and you only need half a pack a recipe. What I’m trying to say is MAKE THIS.

Some veg. Also sorry guys, dropping my Food Network habit = shaky hands

The key to this dish is to slice your veggies super super thinly, or to julienne them (trying not to be a snob here!!). Cutting them into little matchstickys makes sure that you get more veggies per bitw AND that they stir fry faster. Also, its important to cook the veggies one at a time. Different veg have different cooking times and so cooking them separately ensures that they are all cooked perfectly instead of some being over cooked and others being raw. My favorite part of the recipe was “massaging” sesame oil, salt, and pepper into some boiled spinach. Love it.

Massagin some spinach.

The noodles and spinach are cooked first, mixed with some sesame oil and soy sauce, and left to chill out while the other veggies cook. As you work your way through the different veg add each one to the bowl and give them a good stir.

Noodles and spinach. (Going cold turkey is so hard…I can barely remember what Guy Fieri looks like)

This dish is a little time consuming, taking closer to 40/an hour to cook because each of the veggies needs to be cooked separately BUT it’s totally worth it. It’s especially great if you’re cooking with a friend you haven’t seen since before break. Lots of time to chat and catch up!  Friends + cooking = the best

My lovely and talented co-chef

After everything has been cooked and added to your noodle bowl, give it a good stir, and put it back into your pan. It’ll need to cook for about 5-8 more minutes so everything can get nice and hot and all the flavors can meld. Yummmmoooo

Out of the frying pan….and into my belly!

Japchae is usually served as a side dish BUT it can be eaten as a main course too. It also microwaves really easily so it would be great to bring to a potluck or party or whatever people go to and eat at. You can eat it over rice, which is great, or by itself. It’s pretty versatile. So get on it.

She was pretty excited
The finished product. Looks pretty darn good right? Also got my hand shakes under control! Yay!


Adapted from herbivoracious.com
  • 1/2 package or 1 1/2 bundles of Korean sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh spinach
  • 1 medium-small onion, cut in half and julienned
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeds and white inside removed, julienned
  • 5-6 crimini mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Sesame oil, amounts to follow
  • Soy sauce, amounts to follow
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Vegetable oil for frying

In a large pot, boil noodles according to instructions on package until they are soft but still slightly chewy. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water to keep noodles from overcooking and sticking. Cut the noodles into about three segments with kitchen shears. Don’t worry too much about this step. Just chop them up a bit or they’ll be super long and hard to deal with. Place in a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons each of sesame oil and soy sauce, and stir well.

In a smaller pot boil spinach for about 2 minutes or until soft and bright green. Drain and allow to cool until it can be handled without burning your hands. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Cut spinach down, similar to the noodles, into bite sized pieces, place in a bowl and “massage” in 1tsp of sesame oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add spinach to bowl with noodles.

In a large frying pan heat some vegetable oil (~1tsp) on medium-high and cook onions until they are nice and translucent. Add them to the bowl of noodles. Do the same for the carrot, bell pepper, mushrooms, and green onions, cooking each until tender. After all these veggies have been cooked and added to the bowl, add 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp of sugar, and 1/2 tsp pepper and stir thoroughly.

In the large pan add another tsp of vegetable oil and let get hot. Add minced garlic and cook until it starts to brown. Add all contents of the noodle bowl and cook through for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Once it has been heated through either serve directly from the pan or return it to the bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


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