Japchae is a Korean dish made with glass (sweet potato starch) noodles and vegetables. I have had glass noodle dishes before but never been served them by Koreans, so when our couchsurfing hosts in Gyeongu, South Korea mentioned that Japchae would accompany the acorn jelly salad for dinner I was elated.
Anxious to accurately document the recipe, I had my notebook and pen in hand as Minju dictated the list of ingredients she used for the Japchae. As a vegetarian, instead of beef, she added fish cake and imitation crab sticks. For the other mix ins we had carrots, enoki mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, onions and bok choy (instead of the traditional spinach). I even got to participate in the veggie julienning process and received compliments on my swift knife skills (always flattering).
As we sat down to our first home cooked meal in a while, D and I were so thankful to Minju and Phillip for preparing something that closer resembled a feast than a simple one-dish meal. As is natural in South Korean dining, we had multiple plates of various kimchi accompanied by the acorn jelly salad, bibiminbap (rice with kimchi, sesame oil, a fried egg, and Korean red pepper paste) and the Japchae. Everything was delicious and we truly felt incredibly welcome into their home.
The Japchae is a simple recipe but the key is to julienne all the ingredients and keep the strips of veggies the same size. The proper way to stir fry the veggies is one at a time but in today’s busy world it’s easier to just throw them into the wok all together, adding the bok choy last. Only lightly fried, the veggies stay somewhat crisp and without being overloaded with sauce the entire dish feels healthy, wholesome and authentic.
Definitely a recipe I will be recreating at home.
- 12 ounces glass noodles
- 1-2 carrots, julienned
- 6-8 ounces enoki mushrooms, cut off the root
- 6 imitation crab sticks, separated (use pan fried tofu for vegan version)
- 3 long jalapeno peppers, cut into matchsticks
- ½ onion, thinly sliced
- 1 fish cake, thinly sliced (use pan fried tofu for vegan version)
- 2-3 baby bok choy, chopped
- 8 tablespoons gluten free tamari
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons agave
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Soap noodles in cold water for 30 minutes, and drain. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and boil noodles for 5 minutes. Rinse in cold water and drain.
- Heat vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until hot but not smoking,
- , Add all veggies except for bok choy and cook, tossing occasionally 3-4 minutes.
- Add noodles to the wok and toss. Add bok choy and toss, until bok choy slightly wilted.
- In a separate bowl combine soy sauce, sesame oil and agave. Mix until smooth.
- Add sauce to the wok and toss until combined. Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold.