No, I’m not over rice, but I like to put things over it…
like the very Korean dish called japchae (잡채).
Making this noodle dish keeps memories of my mother’s kitchen close to my heart. She made this classic recipe on special occasions because you need time to get it on the table. Though I wish I could eat it everyday, that doesn’t happen.
I’ve ordered japchae at Korean restaurants, but I find they put in too much sugar for my taste. When I make it myself, I add a touch of honey into the marinade which suits me just fine. I usually leave out the beef, finding my way to carrots, mushrooms, and spinach (or whatever green you’d like to put in––swiss chard is nice. Even cucumber!)
I alternate between Julienning and shaving the carrots, though I think you’ll see them mostly Julienned.
Two good things to remember about japchae is that you have to saute each ingredient separately (the scallions you can throw in with another ingredient) and get your seasoning right. The latter just requires that you season to your own taste by tweaking the marinade ingredients.
But please remember that there is no substituting the sweet potato noodle––dangmyun (당면). Don’t go using spaghetti or soba noodles. No rice noodles either. Because then you’re not making japchae. You may run into a japchae recipe in a cookbook where the author lists vague “transparent noodles” or other stand-ins, but don’t bother making this dish unless you have dangmyun in hand.
Just like you would make sure to procure that 7lb rooster for your coq au vin or Lady Fingers for your tiramisu, respect the japchae by using the proper noodle.
Of course, you don’t have eat your japchae over rice, but you’ll see it offered this way in some Korean restaurants. I think it’s particularly good this way for breakfast.
Sweet potato noodles, half the package
1 bunch spinach
1 big carrot, Julienned or shaved with a peeler
3/4 lb mushrooms (I use shiitake, but use what you like)
1 red onion, sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly
5 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
3 tbls soy sauce
water, a few tablespoons
1 tbls honey
1 tbls sesame oil
1-2 tbls rice wine vinegar
fresh ginger juice, about 1tbls
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1. Soak noodles in warm water until they soften. This may take up to 15 minutes.
2. While the noodles are soaking, mix the ingredients for your marinade and set aside. Check your noodles. If they are soft, drain and cut them into 3-4 inch pieces. Set aside in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to use them.
3. Saute your vegetables individually in a frying pan. Do not try to cook them altogther. Heat your oil, add a little garlic to each saute, and set aside cooked veggies in one big bowl.
4. Heat a few teaspoons of oil in the same pan and add your noodles and marinade. Stir the noodles until they have absorbed the marinade.
5. Combine noodles and vegetables in one big bowl and season with sesame seeds, black pepper, salt and more sesame oil.
6. Eat it right away, with or without rice.