How To Make Japchae For Your Next K-Drama Night

Good as a side dish *and* on its own.
side-by-side photos of japchae
PHOTO: (LEFT) GoodEats YQR on Unsplash, (RIGHT) chudesabyvaut from Pexels

If you frequent Korean BBQ spots, then you must be familiar with japchae. Often it’s served as a side dish, but when cooked well, it’s actually a terrific meal on its own. In Korean, japchae means “mixed vegetables” and that’s why it’s as colorful as our own pansit. Koreans typically mix in carrots, spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, and garlic chives; the noodles are glass noodles (or sweet potato starch noodles).

Despite what you might think, you don’t just throw the ingredients together. Much like how kimbap is prepared, the secret to a great japchae is to season each ingredient before combining everything. Another important factor is finding the perfect balance of sweet and savory. To know if your noodles are done well, they have to be a bit bouncy, instead of mushy.

How to cook japchae: Classic Japchae recipe

This simple recipe from My Korean Kitchen has six to eight servings, perfect for your next binge-watch K-drama sesh with your sibs. It also has specific instructions how to bring out the flavor of each ingredient.

Continue reading below ↓

Ingredients:

  • Korean sweet potato starch noodles
  • 100g rib eye fillet, cut into strips
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 110g baby spinach, rinsed
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 100g fresh shiitake mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg
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For the spinach:

  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

For the beef:

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

For the noodles and mushroom:

  • 4 tbsps soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. First, get the meat ready. In a bowl, marinate the strips of beef with the rice wine, soy sauce, minced garlic, black pepper, and sesame oil. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and set it aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Fill a pot with water and bring the water to a boil. Blanch the spinach in the hot water for a few seconds before cooling it down with ice water. Get rid of the excess water and transfer the spinach to a mixing bowl—one large enough to add all the other ingredients in. Before doing that, though, season the spinach with salt, sesame oil, and garlic.
  3. Use one tablespoon of the noodles and mushroom sauce to the actual sliced mushrooms. Set aside until it’s ready to mix everything together.
  4. In a large pot, boil the noodles for eight six to eight minutes. Drain the water then rinse it again with cold water. To make it easier to mix, cut the noodles with a pair of scissors. In a separate bowl, pour in the rest of the “noodles” marinade made up of soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, and black pepper.
  5. Take a medium-sized pan, separate the egg white and yolk, and cook each on its own. Transfer to the cutting board when they’re done.
  6. Feel free to use the same pan to cook the onions next; season with a pinch of salt. Do the same for the carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, meat, and noodles—all separately. Two to three minutes per round should be enough. Add oil after each ingredient, if necessary.
  7. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Slice the egg white and yolk before adding it to the rest. For the final touch, use one tablespoon of sesame oil and one tablespoon of sesame seeds.
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How to cook japchae: Spicy Seafood Japchae recipe

If you’re in the mood for something with a kick, Korean Bapsang’s spicy seafood japchae is hard to beat.

Ingredients:

For the noodles:

  • Korean sweet potato starch noodles
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp gochugaru, preferably finely ground

For the seafood and vegetables:

  • 1 small squid
  • 8 small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 small carrot, julienned
  • 2 to 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 scallion, sliced diagonally
  • Enoki mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsps soy sauce
  • 1 to 1/2 tbsps sugar
  • 2 tsps garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes and set aside.
  2. Clean both the shrimp and squid before cutting in smaller sizes.
  3. Prepare the vegetables if you haven’t. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce—soy sauce, sugar, minced garlic, sesame oil—in a small bowl.
  4. In a pan, stir in vegetable oil, sesame oil, and gochugaru in medium-low heat. Keep going until you get some sort of paste, but make sure not to burn it.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium before adding the noodles and around one to one-half tablespoons of the sauce. Remove the noodles from the pan.
  6. Using the same pan, fry the onions for a bit before adding the mushrooms and carrots. Season it salt and pepper.
  7. Add the seafood and the remaining sauce. This is also when you add the enoki mushrooms and scallions.
  8. Transfer the noodles to the pan and toss until it’s mixed well. Your japchae is ready to serve!
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