Mr. Wonderful and I love to go to this little Korean restaurant in Midwest City called Seoul Garden. Run by a sweet Korean lady and her husband, we love to taste the dishes they cook up which are full of flavor, texture and deliciousness.
One of those dishes is Japchae (otherwise called jabchae, chapchae, Chop Chae, or Chap Chae ) and literally means “a mixture of vegetables”. We ventured off to Seoul Garden on our way home from Texas the day after Christmas, because frankly, we were DONE with holiday food and spicy and flavorful Korean just called our names.
Afterward, we walked around the corner of the square building to the OK-Ko Market, a tiny Korean market that surprisingly houses a café in its back corner but also offers up many Korean staples including a little bit of fresh produce like Asian pears (used to make beloved Korean bulgogi or “Fire beef”), and also bunches of other stuff including the hot stone bowls used to make one of our favorite dishes – Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap.
They also have an aisle full of dried noodles, including the ones to make Japchae, which are sweet potato noodles or dangmyeon, (sometimes in Chinese cuisine called “glass noodles”). Mr. Wonderful calls them “rubberbands”.
I’m not sure why these noodles aren’t orange like sweet potatoes. I searched for information on this and only found that they are made from the “starch” of the sweet potato. Perhaps it’s the sweet potato that isn’t orange, but I’m not sure, so please leave a comment if you know?
Anyway, we have fallen in love with this recipe, so I thought I’d share it with you.
First, we need to marinate the beef for this dish. This recipe calls for making bulgogi to go in the Japchae. It’s best to to marinade the beef for at least an hour and then dump the entire bowl, marinade and all in with your noodles and vegetables to add in the sauce factor.
For the beef you have a few options.
I typically use sirloin but other options include eye-round, T-bone, tenderloin, rib eye, chuck, or flank steak.
Cut the meat across the grain as thinly as possible. It is helpful to partially freeze the meat which makes it easier to cut.
Once it’s all cut up, mix the sauce in a bowl and then add the meat. For the sauce, mix together,
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 2 T. sesame oil
• 3 green onions sliced into ½ inch pieces
• 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 3 as I adore garlic)
• Optional: ½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pour the marinade over the meat in a bowl and let it set while you prep the noodles and the vegetables.
It’s probably better to put it in a flatter dish, like a 9 x 11 Pyrex dish to let it marinade, but I didn’t want to make another dish dirty.
Dirty dishes are the bane of my existence.
Give the noodles a hot bath in simmering water for 5 minutes, then rinse and drain them and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sesame oil over them to keep them from sticking. Toss them well to distribute the oil over all of the noodles.
One bunch of these noodles ended up making about 4 cups of cooked noodles. I used two bunches and the four of us had plentiful portions with some leftover. I might add, you definitely WANT leftovers with this dish because the next day it is WAY better as the flavors have all soaked into the noodles and it is truly wondrous.
If you happen to pop one in your mouth, you will realize that, MAN, these noodles have absolutely NO flavor whatsoever! This is good news, however, because they soak up any sauce that you happen to douse them and it’s wonderful.
You might also notice that they are an eerie clear and gray color. They remind me of shrimp in its raw state and are rather creepy looking sitting there in the bowl waiting to be dressed up.
Snip the noodles into 4-6 inch pieces with your kitchen sheers. Or be lazy like me and just take your chopping knife and cut them in the bowl.
Next, you need to blanch your spinach in a pot of hot water.
I used a 5 oz. box of spinach and just popped it into some boiling water for one minute. Then I drained it and ran cold water right over it in my colander, squeezed as much water as possible out of it with my hands and let it set in the sink.
The rest of the vegetables are up to your preference – options include red pepper slices, white onion slices, julienned carrots, slice mushrooms or green beans.
I happened to have carrots and green beans and used those. My mom and sis in law also played around and made Japchae the same week. My sis-in-law even used Brussels sprouts. It’s up to you!
So I thinly sliced up some carrots and pulled out some whole green beans (about a cup of each), and tossed them into 2 tablespoons of hot oil in my wok (You could use a fry pan).
Then I stirred them for about 3 minutes and added in the meat/marinade mixture.
Then I continued to stir-fry the beef until it was pretty well browned, another 3-4 minutes.
When the meat was browned, I dumped in the noodles and spinach
Toss it up well.
Now, at this point, take a test taste of your Japchae.
If the noodles are too dried out, sprinkle a little more each of soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil over top and mix well. I think I may have added another 2-3 tablespoons of each. I found it to be too bland otherwise. It depends how much of the sauce cooked out when stir-frying.
The following day, I reheated the leftovers and it was even MORE delicious and flavorful. Did I mention I heartily encourage leftovers?
This dish is worth the effort to try to track down the noodles. I hope you have an Asian or Korean market near you. If not, I’m sure they are available on the internet, but a quick search turned up some ridiculous prices. I think I paid under $5 for my package which contained 3 bundles.
Here in Oklahoma City, you can find them here:
6000 SE 15th St
Midwest City, OK
Super Cao Nguyen
2668 N Military Ave,
Oklahoma City, OK
- 2 T. Canola oil
- 1 (10 oz.) bundle sweet potato (glass) noodles (1 bunch)
- 2 T. sesame oil
- ½ lb. sirloin, ribeye or skirt steak, sliced thinly (2” x ⅛”)
- 5 oz. baby spinach
- 1 c. julienned carrots
- 1 c. whole green beans
- ½ c. sliced mushrooms
- ½ c. sliced red peppers
- ½ c. sliced white onions
- ½ c. soy sauce
- ¼ c. brown sugar
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 3 green onions chopped
- Optional: ¼ -1/2 t. red pepper flakes
- Slice beef as thinly as possible
- Mix together all sauce/marinade ingredients and pour over beef in shallow pan. Toss to coat. Marinade beef at least one hour and preferably up to 4 hours.
- Fill medium saucepan with water and bring to simmer
- Add noodles and simmer, stirring often for five minutes
- Drain noodles, rinse lightly and let dry while making vegetables
- After 10 minutes, toss noodles with 2 T. Sesame oil to prevent from sticking
- Bring medium sauce pan to boil and add 5 cups of baby spinach
- Cook one minute then rinse with cold water in colander and squeeze with hands to remove as much water as possible (or press in a potato ricer which works really well!)
- Chop up green onions, carrots, mushrooms or any other vegetable you're using
- Stir fry vegetables in 2 T. canola oil for 3 minutes
- Add in meat and marinade and stir fry another 3-5 minutes until beef is cooked through
- Add in noodles and spinach and toss well to coat all
- Taste test your Japchae and add more soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil to taste.
- Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve hot or in the summer, serve room temperature or cold as a salad.