Japchae (Stir-Fried Korean Glass Noodles)
Chewy, savoury and so delicious to eat whether hot or cold!
I first came across Japchae during my studies in Sydney many moons ago when a friend had brought me to eat at Strathfield, also known as Korea town since 90% of the restaurants there are opened by Koreans. The restaurant she had brought me to was called Ceci and was one of the busier restaurants in the area.
How Ceci served their version of Japchae is actually pretty different from the ones I had in other restaurants. Ceci's had lots of fatty beef strips and was literally swimming in the rich beefy gravy and they added Korean rice cake to the mix as well. On a cold winter's night, it was exceptionally delicious and I literally had to stop myself from eating too much of it!
I've tried several times to replicate Ceci's version of Japchae without much success and I am inclined to believe that part of the secret to their delicious gravy is their beef broth, which they probably use from their Beef Bulgogi soup and dishes. Thankfully however, I'm able to make the usual version without too much hassle.
Making Japchae is actually pretty simple but rather tedious since you have to cook the ingredients individually before combining all of them together. Most recipes call for soya sauce, sesame oil, pepper and sugar but one of the recent discoveries I found in the supermarket is the Bibigo All-purpose Cooking Sauce. It's pretty useful if you're using it as a beef bulgogi marinade but I found that it works for Japchae too since it's a lot tastier than if you just use the usual seasonings.
In my recipe below, I've used sliced pork strips instead of the usual fatty beef strips and it worked pretty well too.
(serves 4-5) Ingredients
300g dried potato noodles
150g sliced beef or pork (preferably with some fats, sukiyaki beef or pork would work well)
1 medium carrot, julienned
150g spinach, cut
6-7 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced into strips
1 white onion, sliced into strips
1 tbsp Bibigo all-purpose sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
Bibigo all-purpose sauce
Pour all the seasonings into the meat and leave to marinade for at least 15 minutes.
Prepare the noodles by boiling it to soften. It will take around 8-10 minutes for it to do so. Once the noodles have softened, pour away the hot water and immediately run under tap water.
Whilst the meat is marinating, prepare the rest of the ingredients. On a frying pan, add 1 tbsp of oil, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp garlic, stir-fry till fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for about 20 seconds till it softens. Remove from the frying pan.
Repeat the same steps for the spinach, carrots and onion individually.
Once the above is done, we can now prepare the meat. Add 1 tbsp of oil to the frying pan, followed by minced garlic, add the meat strips in and stirfry quickly till it just cooks. Remove from frying pan.
Some people like to prepare their noodles separately in a large bowl and marinade it with the seasonings. For me, I like to actually cook it with the rest of the other ingredients in the wok.
Prepare a wok, add in the oil, sesame oil and garlic and stir-fry a bit, then add in the potato noodles and the rest of the other ingredients. Add the Bibigo sauce, sugar, pepper and stir it in with tongs (it's a lot easier to handle, trust me).
Cut the noodles with scissors. Continue to stir on low heat (this is to prevent the noodles from sticking to the wok) and using a fork, taste a bit of the noodles to check if it's just right. The noodles should taste savoury, so if it's not good enough, add more of the sauces or pepper to correct the taste.
Once it's done, switch off the fire and serve.
The best thing about Japchae is that if you've made too much of it, you can always keep it in the fridge and it tastes even better the next day. You may wish to pop it in the microwave to heat it up but the amazing thing about this noodle is that it tastes just as good cold from the fridge!