Japchae with Vegetables
The first time I had japchae was at a fast-casual Korean restaurant called Gogi Go in Midtown, Oklahoma City. Gogi Go is sort of like a Korean Chipotle—line of food, order a burrito/bowl off the menu or create your own—and I chose japchae as the base for my bowl. Compared with Chinese lo mein, for example, the noodles in japchae are softer, thinner and greedily soak up sauce. It’s generally eaten as a side dish (called banchan) rather than a main dish, which made it a super tasty base for my customized creation.
If you want the literal definition of the dish (according to Wikipedia), “Japchae (잡채; 雜菜) is a sweet and savory dish of stir-fried glass noodles and vegetables that is popular in Korean cuisine. Japchae is typically prepared with dangmyeon, a type of cellophane noodles made from sweet potato starch; the noodles are topped with assorted vegetables, meat, and mushrooms, and seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil”. Japchae may be an unfamiliar word, but it’s made up of a familiar combination of noodles, sauce and veggies, so don’t be scared to give it a try!
In no way, shape or form am I claiming that this is authentic japchae. We couldn’t even find dangmyeon at our local Asian supermarket, so we opted for bean thread noodles (they were clear like the dangmyeon, so what the hell, right?). We ramped up the traditionally simple sauce of sesame oil + soy sauce by adding brown sugar, freshly grated ginger and gochujang (an incredibly tasty Korean red chili paste). Plus, we topped the whole thing with charred green onions and broccoli roasted in char siu sauce, a Chinese BBQ sauce (again, not authentic).
So will you find our version of japchae in your local Korean restaurant? No. But is it delicious and easy to throw together? Absolutely!
1 package glass noodles or bean thread noodles (you’re looking for clear noodles)
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1/4 c. Chinese BBQ sauce
1 T. + 1/2 T. sesame oil
6 T. low sodium soy sauce
3 T. gochujang
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 - 8 oz. package mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1-2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 bunch of spinach, torn into pieces
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. sweet corn (can use the canned version)
1 bunch green onions
Sesame seeds, to garnish
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the sauce ingredients—6 T. soy sauce, 3 T. gochujang, 1/2 T. sesame oil, 1 T. brown sugar and 1/2 t. fresh grated ginger—together in a bowl and set aside.
2) In a separate bowl (make it a large one), whisk together the BBQ sauce and 1 T. sesame oil. Add the broccoli florets and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook for 10 minutes. Toss, then cook for another 10 minutes.
3) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with water, shaking well to remove all the water, then drizzle with additional sesame oil.
4) Heat 2 T. sesame oil over high heat in a large pan or wok. Once hot, add the onions, garlic, carrots and red bell peppers and cook for five minutes.
5) Add the mushrooms and cook for two minutes. Next, tear the spinach into pieces and add a bit at a time, stirring until the spinach has wilted.
6) Cook the frozen peas according to package directions. Drain and pour into the wok along with the corn. Cook for two more minutes.
7) While the veggies are cooking, prepare the green onions. Toss with just a bit of sesame oil, then grill to char. We grilled them on our outdoor grill, but you could also char them over a gas burner or in the oven. Roughly chop.
8) Once the veggies are done cooking, add the noodles to the wok. Use a sharp knife to gently cut the noodles into more manageable pieces.
9) Remove the wok from the heat. Pour the sauce over the noodle mixture and toss well to coat. Serve topped with the broccoli and green onions and sprinkle with sesame seeds.