Made with bouncy sweet potato starch noodles, japchae (or chapchae) is a classic Korean dish that everyone loves! Find out how to make authentic and delicious japchae with this tried and true reader favorite!
Japchae (잡채) literally means “mixed vegetables”. However, the main ingredient in this classic dish is Korean sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon, 당면), also known as glass noodles. Japchae is an essential dish for traditional festivals and special occasions.
For the traditional japchae, the chewy and elastic noodles are well served with thin strips of beef (or pork) and various vegetables in a slightly sweet and salty sauce. It is also common to add a garnish to eggs (jidan, 지단). Sometimes I also water finely chopped pine nuts.
To make vegan japchae, simply omit the meat and add a little more mushrooms or other vegetables. Seared tofu is also a good substitute for meat.
Serve it as an aperitif or as an accompaniment or on a bed of rice for a main course.
How to make japchae
There are different ways to prepare japchae noodles. Some people soak the noodles before cooking them. Some don't rinse the noodles after cooking. Even the packaging instructions vary by brand. I don't find it necessary to soak the noodles. The noodles cook fairly quickly without getting soaked. I boil about 8 minutes until the noodles are soft and elastic. These noodles should NOT be “al dente!”
I then rinse the noodles in cold water, drain them well, marinate them with the prepared sauce, then fry them to give them a soft but bouncy texture.
Meat and vegetables:
I usually use lean and tender beef, but pork loin is also very common among japchae. Classic vegetable additions are carrots, spinach, mushrooms, onions, and green onions. Other common vegetable options are chillies, bell peppers, garlic chives, cucumbers, etc.
Shiitake (pyogo beoseot, 표고 버섯) and wood ear mushrooms (mogi beoseot, 목이 버섯) are the most typical of this dish, but oyster mushrooms (neutari beoseot, 느타리 버섯) are also commonly used.
The japchae ingredients are cooked separately and combined at the end in a deliciously colorful dish. This traditional method is what makes this dish so special! Once you've got the meat and veg ready, cooking really doesn't take much time.
Here I have simplified the process a bit and cooked some of the ingredients together if necessary. Either way, don't overcook the vegetables. The vegetables should be slightly crunchy or “al dente” to go well with the soft noodles.
The real secret to successfully creating the authentic flavor of this dish is finding the right balance between soy sauce and sugar. This japchae recipe will give you that right balance! Be sure to proportionally increase the amount of sauce if you are using more ingredients than the amounts stated in the recipe.
To make the process a little easier, I first prepare a bowl of sauce to use throughout the cooking process. Use brown sugar, if available, for color and a little more flavor.
How to store japchae leftovers
Leftover japchae should be stored in the refrigerator. It keeps well for 3 to 4 days and heats up well in the microwave. The noodles will become soft and chewy again when reheated.
This japchae recipe was originally posted in January 2010. I've updated here with new photos, more information, and minor changes to the recipe.
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