Chuseok time is japchae time

by Liz on September 10, 2011

in Food

This is japchae. You eat it.

I’ve been Korean for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember I have never been a big fan of japchae, a lightly stir-fried dish of glass noodles embellished with various vegetables and proteins. Which, to me, is ironic, because I love stir-fries and noodles, and japchae has both these bases covered.

Japchae has counterparts in other Asian cuisines, but I’ve always been secretly dismayed that it has neither the sweet and sour fragrance of Pad Thai, or the greasy but good sated feel of American Chinese chow mein. The appeal isn’t immediate, which probably explains why it’s taken me this long to finally come around. Yes, I now love japchae, and here’s why.

I love japchae because it’s a stir-fried dish that keeps grease to a minimum. It’s also one of few, perhaps the one and only stir-fried noodle recipe that uses mushrooms to incorporate an aromatic, earthy flavor to what’s already a color and taste-rich dish.

Japchae is also a taste of home. My mother always made it on special occasions, and though I’ve never understood why, we always ate it with rice, a seemingly incompatible accompaniment to the noodleliness of japchae. But now, when I eat japchae as a standalone item, my palate knows something’s not quite right, unless, of course, I take a bite of rice.

So this Chuseok, a celebration of harvest and gathering in South Korea, why not make a plate of japchae? I’m providing a variation of a recipe I used this weekend from one of my favorite Korean food blogs, a translation if you will, so you can try this at home.

A quick glance and the recipe is a bit intimidating, because there’s many small steps to master. But, take heart. If I can make this, so can you.

Stir-frying the pork. Yum.

Chuseok Japchae (adapted from here, serves 5 to 6)
9 oz. sweet potato noodles (called ‘dangmyeon’ in Korean)
1/2 bunch of spinach
7 oz. of oyster mushrooms (here I just used an assortment of mushrooms)
1 large onion
1 carrot
3 eggs, yolks separated from whites
5 oz. pork cutlet

Seasoning for pork
1/2 ts of salt
1 tb of Chinese cooking wine
Pepper to taste

Seasoning for noodles
4 tb of Jin Ganjang, thick Korean soy sauce (available in Korean grocery stores)
1 tb sugar

Seasoning for vegetables
1 tb of Jin Ganjang
2 tb of sesame oil
Crushed sesame seeds, to your liking (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle)

(FYI: instructions to stir-fry below usually requires adding a tablespoon of canola oil or equivalent to the pan prior to pouring ingredients to cook)

1. Wash the mushrooms, and boil quickly in hot water, no more than 10 seconds. Drain and squeeze water out completely, then lightly sprinkle with salt.
2. Wash the spinach, also boil in hot water for approximately 10 seconds. Again, drain water and squeeze out excess moisture. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
3. Peel and slice the onion into semi-circles and stir-fry in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat until partially cooked.
4. Peel and slice the carrot into thin strips. Stir-fry until partially but not completely cooked.
5. Pour the egg white into an omelet pan, flip, and cook on both sides. Repeat for the yolk. Slice both omelets into thin strips. Set aside.
6. Slice the pork cutlet into thin strips, and marinate thoroughly with the seasoning for pork. In a non-stick pan, stir fry until fully cooked.
7. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the dangmyeon (noodles). Cook for no more than 10 minutes, drain, place quickly in a bowl of cold water to chill. Cut into bite sized pieces (best done with scissors).
8. Now for the home stretch: add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large, non-stick pan or wok, set at medium-high heat. Pour the noodles and add the seasoning for noodles. (Note: do taste frequently as you cook, and feel free to add additional doses of the noodle seasoning sauce as you see fit.)
9. You’ll notice the noodles change color as you add the sauce. Make sure the sauce is absorbed evenly.
10. Next, add the pork and vegetables, stirring all ingredients thoroughly.
11. Lastly, add the seasoning for vegetables. Stir once more and mix thoroughly.

  • Anonymous

    love to try

  • I love this japchae but never looked up the recipe for it.  This post was a nice stumble for me!

    • Liz

      Thanks! Glad you found my blog. I enjoy your blog as well. Great, fun concept.

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