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!
Just a gal who loves to eat and cook ❤