Japchae is a sweet and savory Korean vermicelli noodle dish made with sweet potato starch. The noodles are usually cooked with an assortment of vegetables and served as a side dish or as an entree. Did you know, in both Korean and Chinese, the term japchae 잡채; 雜菜means mixed vegetables. As a linguaphile, I always find it so interesting to see commonalities between vastly different languages, especially that of Chinese words, phrases and their similar meanings in Korean and Japanese. Like when I found out the word for library in Japanese was toshokan 図書館, which sounds like the Chinese equivalent for tu su guan圖書館, and then in Korean it is also doseogwan 도서관! So cool!! Anyhow, moving on...
This is an easy recipe that everyone in my family enjoys. It's not oily or greasy, and packs lots of healthy veggies. Japchae has a sweet and savory profile, making it palatable for kids and seniors alike. My grandmother who is notoriously picky about all foods other than her own, also enjoys japchae! The sweetness not only comes from the sugar and soy sauce, but also from the natural sweetness of the carrots. Some japchae dishes include protein like sliced beef or chicken, but today's recipe is mainly vegetarian. Feel free to add protein as you like!
This dish is quick to pull together with a little prep for the veggies and boiling the sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon). You can buy this noodle at your local Asian supermarket or Korean market.
I used dried shiitake mushrooms and re-hydrated them, saving the mushroom broth to use when cooking the japchae instead of water. I would much rather use dried shiitakes and re-hydrate them instead of using fresh shiitakes because there is a depth of flavor from the drying process that concentrates the mushroom flavor to a whole different level of umami. Like a dry-aged steak, the flavors of the aged beef are more pronounced and richer when dried than a fresh cut. Also, the mushroom broth that comes out of rehydrating is great for cooking and replacing vegetable stock in recipes.
When I boil the noodles, I also cook the veggies at the same time, starting with the carrots. Then the garlic and mushrooms go in, and lastly the spinach. From there, the noodles are tossed in and the sauce joins the party!
With a sprinkling of sesame seeds and fresh chopped scallions, the dish is complete and ready to eat. Enjoy as a meal by itself, or cook it as a side dish to eat with Korean bbq at home--grill up some meat, serve with fresh lettuce leaves, kimchi, potato salad..the list goes on. I am seriously missing Kbbq right now. 😞
We hope you enjoy this Korean staple dish as much as we do!
Dan Dan Noodles
I'm so excited to share my Dan Dan Noodle recipe with you today! This particular recipe features my handmade noodles recipe, but you can always use a dried or fresh noodle from the Asian market. Dan Dan noodles is a soupless, spicy, tangy Sichuan noodle dish with a nut-based sauce, usually either peanut or sesame. It is a popular street food, and is enjoyed with ground pork and veggies.
You can easily substitute the meat with a protein of your choosing too. For my recipe, I use ground pork mixed with sweet preserved Chinese radish, Chinese broccoli and some Korean kimchi. The radish is optional, but the sweetness, slight tang and crispness of the preserved radishes add a great variety of texture to the dish and complements the pork nicely. I absolutely love this sauce--the nuttiness of the peanut and sesame paste mixed with savory soy sauce, the slight acidity from black vinegar and the a heat kick from the chili flakes, chili oil and my favorite, the prickly ash oil--all mixed together, coats the noodles in a blanket of exciting flavors that dance in your mouth. Prickly ash oil is made from hua jiao pepper, a Sichuan peppercorn that mala Chinese dishes attribute their "numbing" qualities from.
I found this dish stay at home friendly because the sauce can be made from pantry items that you can stock up on and use for any Chinese/Asian dish, and the handmade noodles only involve 3 ingredients: flour, water and salt. Even if you don't have the specific veggie and ground pork, you can always pair the noodles with whatever you have on hand. Quarantine cooking really is like an episode of Chopped in the kitchen, make something out of what you got chefs!
After mixing the sauce, I place a dollop of it in the bottom of my serving bowl, add noodles and then add the toppings. Lastly, I garnish with sesame seeds and drizzle more chili oil and prickly ash oil on top! Honestly, it doesn't matter how you layer your ingredients, since you'll be mixing it all up to eat anyhow. To each their own!
Dan dan noodle sauce
Handmade noodles (2-3 servings) or store bought noodles of your preference
Put it all together
This is a great dish to assemble and enjoy, and I love that it can be prepared relatively quickly (unless you are making the handmade noodles, which takes a little more waiting time). For me, I always have soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine and assorted spices in stock since they are staples in our home, which makes this dish that much easier to make. Plus they are versatile and used in many other Asian dishes, so it's a win win for us! We hope you enjoy this noodle dish!
As a self-proclaimed noodle lover, handmade noodles are my absolute favorite! Premade noodles, instant noodles and pasta are great, but handmade noodles and handmade pasta are simply on a different level, especially in texture.
There are a couple handmade noodle shops in NJ and NYC's Chinatown that we like to go to, but sometimes if going out and having someone else make it for you isn't an option, then you gotta go homemade. And if you're like me, I get cravings for handmade noodles like an itch in the brain that needs to be attended to, right away. With this easy recipe, delicious handmade noodles are never out of reach.
I haven't yet ventured into the world of pasta making, but making Chinese noodles is super easy and only requires 2 ingredients, 3 if you want to add salt! Sometimes if I already know what sauce I am cooking the noodles with, I omit the salt because the sauce will coat and flavor the noodles just fine without the extra sodium. Plus, there are no extra additives or preservatives in these fresh homemade noodles—premade noodles that you buy at the market tend to have other ingredients in them to prolong their shelf life, so the homemade noodles are, in a way, "healthier"...
For the fresh noodles, you can either use All Purpose Flour, or you can try using Beksul Potato Starch for Dough Flakes, which I used and was extremely happy with because the texture of the noodles was so nice and chewy! I've used all purpose flour before too, so both work well. This potato starch is a Korean brand of flour that is usually used for making "dough flakes", which is a kind of hand torn noodle used in stews like Sujebi. These fresh noodles can be stored for about 1-2 days. Honestly never lasts more than a meal for us though cause we slurp that shit right up. 😃
INGREDIENTS (2-3 servings):
PREPARING THE DOUGH:
KNIFE CUT NOODLES
HAND PULLED NOODLES
You can either enjoy the noodles cold or you can add the noodles to a stir fry noodle dish, broth dish, or quickly heat the noodles in hot water prior to serving with sauce. We hope you enjoy!
Just a gal who loves to eat and cook ❤