Introduction to Japchae
As you can probably tell by now, a lot of recipes I make are inspired by my favorite restaurants. This entire food blog arose out of quarantine boredom and necessity. Since I could no longer go out to eat at my favorite restaurants, I started developing recipes at home for my favorite foods.
Back when I was in law school, a great bibimbap place opened up right across the street. However, the item on this restaurant’s menu that really stole my heart was this japchae.
This Korean noodle dish is cooked with glass noodles made from sweet potato starch. These noodles give this dish a distinctly sweet undertone that is absolutely delicious. This vegan version is also surprisingly simple to make. From start to finish you can finish making this dish in under 20 minutes.
Breakdown of the Ingredients:
- Soy Sauce + Salt: One mistake I always used to make with cooking is only using soy sauce to add saltiness to my dishes. Now, I always make sure to use both soy and salt. This is because using too much soy sauce can completely overpower a dish. So, if you taste a dish with soy sauce in it and think its not salty enough, grab for regular table salt instead of more soy.
- Sugar: Japchae typically has a slightly sweet flavor. This flavor comes not only from the sweet potato noodles used in this dish but also the sugar used in the sauce. I use plain white sugar for this. The sugar also helps balance out the potent taste of the sesame oil.
- Sesame Oil + Canola Oil: If you’ve used sesame oil in cooking before you know that it has a fairly strong flavor and scent. This is why I typically dilute sesame oil with a neutral oil like canola.
- Veggies: For this vegan japchae I love using spinach, green and red bell pepper, mushrooms, and shredded carrots. I think cabbage or bok choy could also work well in this dish.
- Red Onions or Shallots: Either red onions or shallots will work well for japchae. Shallots are a bit milder than plain red onions so you can use a little more than you would for red onions.
- Garlic: Make sure to chop the garlic finely before sautéing it. You can also mince it if you like.
- Gochujang Sauce: I recommend using gochujang sauce with this japchae but feel free to use regular gochujang paste if you prefer. I get my sauce from Ralph’s and I use the Chung Jung One brand. This sauce is milder than regular gochujang paste and works really well with this recipe.
- Vermicelli Noodles: Don’t get these vermicelli noodles confused with the thin white noodles typically used in Thai dishes. The vermicelli used in japchae is made from sweet potato starch and has a very unique flavor. So make sure to grab these noodles from your local Asian grocery store.
- Sesame Seeds: Sesame seeds always make a great garnish for noodles and soups. Oddly enough I love to use Everything But the Bagel Seasoning from Trader Joe’s for this. It includes black and white sesame seeds, salt, and garlic. So it makes a surprisingly great addition to this japchae.
Process + Keys to Success:
- I always like to mix my sauces in a small bowl and it aside so my sauce mixture is ready for use when I need it. So mix up your sesame oil, soy, sugar, and salt and keep aside.
- Then, add canola oil to your pan and sauté your onions until translucent. This should take about a minute. Next, add in your garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so.
- Now you can add in your fresh veggies and sauté for a minute or so before adding in some salt. You don’t need to cook your veggies for very long because we want them to remain pretty crisp. If you overcook them, the veggies will wilt too much and turn out mushy.
- Finally, you can add in your cooked vermicelli noodles, and your sauce, and cook until the sauce has thickened and coated the noodles evenly.
- Finish your dish by garnishing with sesame seeds before serving and add your gochujang sauce in right before eating.
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- 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt (plus add some additional salt when you sauté your veggies – to taste)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- fresh veggies (I used spinach, green and red bell pepper, mushrooms, and shredded carrots)
- 1/4 c red onions (or shallots)
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- ~1 tbsp gochujang sauce (or to taste! And make sure it is the SAUCE not paste since the paste is much stronger)
- sesame seeds (for garnish)
- vermicelli noodles (make sure these are the ones made from potato starch)
- Mix your sauce ingredients and set aside: sesame oil, soy, sugar, and salt.
- Add canola oil to your pan and sauté your onions until translucent; then add in your garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so.
- Add in fresh veggies and sauté for a minute or so before adding in some salt.
- Make sure not to cook the veggies too much since we want them to be crisp still and not mushy.
- Then add in your cooked vermicelli noodles, and your sauce, and cook until the sauce has thickened and coated the noodles evenly.
- Garnish with sesame seeds before serving and add your gochujang sauce in right before eating. I use the brand "chung jung one" and it's my favorite! (not sponsored lol)