I’m excited to share japchae, aka Korean glass noodles, with you. It was first served at the Korean royal courts in the early 1600s, and now is traditionally made for parties or celebrations. The usual japchae is made of sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon) stir fried with thinly sliced vegetables, typically carrots, onions, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, as well as beef.
Dangmyeon are a part of the cellophane noodles, a group of noodles made from starch, such as mung bean, yam, potato starch, and cassava. They look purplish-grey when uncooked but became a clear translucent light gray or brownish-gray color. The texture is springy and chewy, and I find them much lighter than flour noodles – pasta makes me feel so much heavier. As a perk for those celiacs out there, these noodles are gluten free (The Kitchn).
Interestingly, you can (supposedly) make japchae without the noodles, but I think most people wouldn’t recognize it without the characteristic noodles. In a pinch, you can use regular vermicelli (which turns white instead of clear) if you can’t find japchae, but it’s really quite the same.
This is my first time cooking with dangmyeon; I’ve been experimenting with different noodles since we’ve been battling weevils and bugs in the rice and flour all summer, but they never seem interested in noodles and pasta. (Another bonus is that noodles are much faster to cook than rice!) No matter how long I store my noodles and pasta, the bugs ignore it them.
While I’ve safely sealed my other grains in jars, I’ve mostly stopped eating rice and moved on the noodles (hey, if you can’t beat the bugs, then starve them!).
This recipe was adapted from Steamy Kitchen and Maangchi. I made a few modifications to make it easier. The proper way to stir fry is to cook each type of vegetable since each requires a different length of cooking time, but I just stir fried mostly everything together to make it easier, putting the ingredients that needed to cook longer first.
While there’s a lot of components in japchae, but it’s worth it! You can make a huge amount for a party or eat it all by yourself for a week like I did. All my colleagues were super jealous when I was munching this in the call room.
Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)
1/2 pound Korean sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon)
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 lb beef, cut into thin strips, marinated in Bulgogi sauce (optional)
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (fresh or rehydrated dried is fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup spinach, washed and drained
1-2 stalks green onions, diced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 eggs, for egg garnish (jidan)
Return the noodles in the wok with the vegetables, then fry with the soy sauce and sugar. Fry 2-3 minutes until the noodles are cooked through, tossing with remaining 1 1/2 tsp of sesame oil and the beef and onions. Finally, add the spinach and stir fry for about 30 seconds (this will cook the quickest). transfer your japchae to a large plate for serving.
To make the jidan, crack 2 eggs in a bowl, whisk to combine yolks and whites, then cook in a small skillet. Flip when one side is cooked. Let cool, then cut your egg omelet into strips. Add on top of you japchae. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.