Japchae Made Easy: This is my go-to cheat 20-Minute Recipe for this Korean noodle classic!
Japchae is a popular crowd-pleaser Korean dish featuring chewy sweet potato glass noodles, colourful vegetables, and savoury marinated meat, all seasoned with a delectable blend of soy sauce and sesame oil.
Japchae is one of those noodle dishes that is deceptively difficult to make! At first glance it looks like a simple stir fry… nope! You have to blanch the noodles, then toss it in its own soy sauce and sesame oil blend so the noodles can soak up all of the seasoning. Then you individually cook and season each component of the the Japchae. Those toppings are added to the noodles, and a final seasoning sauce is poured over to bring everything together. The sauce cannot be too much, or too salty. Combine everything together, and then we have a perfect plate of Japchae. The final plate should present you with chewy, seasoned noodles, and flavour in every bite.
UNFORTUNATELY, I don’t always have the time or patience for good Japchae, so this is what I do!
Why you will LOVE this Recipe:
- Quick and Easy to Make: This Japchae is quick and easy to prepare! With the right preparation and organisation, it can be whipped up in no time, making it an excellent option for busy weeknight dinners.
- Deliciously Addictive: Japchae’s flavour profile is a delightful combination of sweet, savoury, and nutty. The chewy texture of the sweet potato glass noodles, combined with the colourful vegetables and tender meat, makes it a truly satisfying dish that keeps you coming back for more. Each mouthful is a burst of delight!
- Customisable: Japchae is highly versatile, allowing you to tweak the ingredients to suit your preferences or dietary restrictions. Whether you’re a meat lover, a vegetarian, or have specific vegetable preferences (aka have some vegetables to use up in the fridge), Japchae can accommodate them all.
- Looks and Taste Good: Japchae’s vibrant and colourful presentation makes it a gorgeous dish to serve to impress!
Key Ingredients for Japchae:
- Sweet Potato Glass Noodles (Dangmyeon): These translucent, slightly chewy noodles are the star of Japchae. Made from sweet potato starch, they have a delightful texture and absorb the flavours of the dish beautifully. When cooked, sweet potato glass noodles turn a stunning glassy, clear appearance, adding a visual appeal to the overall presentation of the dish. One of the most significant advantages of using sweet potato noodles is that they are naturally gluten-free, making Japchae a fantastic option for those with dietary restrictions. A close alternative would be glass noodles or mung bean noodles. Personally I feel like you can’t quite make Japchae with any other type of noodles! Japchae is all about that thin chew!
- Assorted Vegetables: The main reason why I LOVE Japchae – vegetables! Japchae is such a vibrant and colourful dish thanks to the use of all sorts of vegetables… which in my eyes meant that this is the PERFECT way to use up all of my leftover vegetables. Typical vegetables used include thinly sliced carrots, spinach, bell peppers, and mushrooms – but don’t ever feel you can’t incorporate any other! Preparing your vegetables in strip form would be best. Basically you want to be able to pick up noodles and vegetables in a single chopstick scoop. The combination of different vegetables not only adds a burst of colors but also provides a range of nutrients, making the dish not just delicious but also nutritious.
- Protein (Beef, Chicken, or Tofu): Using thinly sliced beef or shabu shabu beef is my go-to, for quick cooking and flavour. While Japchae is often prepared with beef, it’s also versatile enough to include other proteins like chicken or tofu. If you’re more organised than I am, marinate the protein with soy sauce and sesame oil overnight.
- Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil: These two ingredients are the backbone of the dish, infusing it with that distinct Korean flavor. The soy sauce adds a savoury and slightly salty taste, while the nutty aroma of sesame oil takes the dish to the next level. This dynamic duo provides a depth of flavour that elevates Japchae from a simple stir-fry to a culinary masterpiece loved by many.
- Sweetness: Japchae is a perfectly sweet and savoury. Typically that touch of sweetness comes from sugar and mirin (a sweet rice wine), which you can definitely use here. To get that sweetness, I used a combination of brown sugar and honey – I adore the caramelised touch these two sweetening agents bring to the Japchae. You can also just use sugar if that’s all you have. Make sure the sugar dissolves completely in the seasoning sauce.
- Sesame Seeds: Sprinkling some roasted sesame seeds over the Japchae not only adds a pleasant crunch but also intensifies the nutty essence of the sesame oil used in the recipe. Sesame seeds are a common ingredient in Korean cuisine and offer a delightful nutty flavour and visual appeal to the dish.
How to Make Easy Japchae
1. Cook the Japchae Noodles to Al Dente
In a pot or large pan, fill it with water and set to a rolling boil. Once boiling add the damyeon noodles an allow it to soften and cook until translucent and al dente. My noodles took about 5 minutes, but this can differ according to brand. Check the package instructions for the best results.
TIP! Use a pan that can also cook the rest of the ingredients in. In this case, that would be my pan with a higher wall.
Once noodles are cooked, drain the noodles, and rinse the noodles in cold water or dunk it in an ice bath for about 5 seconds. This will stop the cooking process, so noodles do not turn soggy. Add cooked noodles to a mixing bowl. Use a large enough bowl that would make tossing the noodles easy.
2. Make the Seasoning Sauce
While noodles are cooking, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, honey, and oyster sauce in a bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to dissolve the sugar. Stir to combine. Feel free to give a quick taste test, it should be savoury sweet, with a nice nuttiness from the sesame oil.
Add a tablespoon of the sauce to the noodles and toss to combine. The freshly cooked noodles will absorb the flavours of the sauce.
For convenience and efficiency, we can use this sauce to season ALL of the components of the dish!
3. Cook the Omelette
If using the same pan, wipe it dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen linen. No need to wash it!
Crack 2 eggs in a bowl and beat. Optional: but you can a small pinch of turmeric powder to give the eggs an even brighter shade of yellow!
Add oil to the pan, and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the eggs, and spread in the pan. Allow the omelette to cook. Flip the omelette halfway for even cooking, if needed. Take off the pan.
Allow omelette to cool down, before rolling it and cutting into strips. Add the strips to the mixing bowl. I like to use a pair of scissors and cut it straight into the mixing bowl.
TIP! While omelette cools down, continue with the rest of the recipe.
4. Cook the Vegetables
In the same pan, add more oil if needed, stir onions and garlic until fragrant. Then add your vegetables. To season, add a tablespoon of the seasoning sauce earlier. EASY!
I’m using carrots, beansprouts and Chinese lettuce today. If you prefer a more tender carrot, stir fry them first. I always prefer mine with some crunch, so all of my vegetables go in at the same time.
TIP! Japchae is a colourful dish, so make your vegetables a rainbow! Other vegetables that I love using in Japchae are mushrooms, bell peppers and broccoli.
Stir fry until the leafy greens wilt, then take off the pan and top directly over the noodles in the mixing bowl.
5. Cook the Beef
In the same pan, add more oil if needed, cook the beef slices last. Stir fry and scrape at any bits at the bottom of the pan to allow the residual seasonings to lightly flavour the beef.
It’s not necessary to season the beef, but if you want to, season with salt and pepper OR use a tablespoon of the sauce earlier!
Once the proteins cook, take it off the pan and add to the mixing bowl.
6. Season and Toss Everything Together
At this point, you should have all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl: the noodles, omelette strips, stir fried vegetables and beef.
Pour the seasoning sauce and sesame seeds over the ingredients. Toss everything together. Give it a taste test. Add more seasoning sauce if needed.
Once combined and seasoned well, serve immediately!
*Recipe last updated on 7 January 2024. It’s updated to get you a more full-flavoured Japchae while being efficient, WITHOUT much additional time or effort added!
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Quick and Easy JapchaeCourse: Recipes
2 servings or 125g sweet potato glass noodles (dangmyeon)
1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vegetable oil (for cooking)
- Vegetable Stir Fry
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
50g carrots, julienned
50g spinach (or leafy vegetables of choice)
50g bean sprouts
1 tsp vegetable oil, if needed
- Protein Stir Fry
100g shabu-shabu beef (sirloin or ribeye), thinly sliced into strips
1 tsp vegetable oil, if needed
- Seasoning Sauce
2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1-2 tbsps warm water
- In a bowl, combine ingredients for the seasoning sauce and keep to one side.
- In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add the sweet potato glass noodles and cook according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside in your mixing bowl. Add a tablespoon of the seasoning sauce to the noodles and toss to combine. This will let the noodles soak up some of the sauce while we cook the rest of the ingredients.
- In the same pot, give it a quick wipe dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in the pan and pour in the beaten eggs. Spread the eggs in the pan and let the omelette cook. Take off the pan, and slice the omelette into strips. Place the egg strips over the noodles.
- In the same pan, no need to clean it, add more oil if needed. Saute minced garlic and thinly sliced onions until fragrant. Add julienned carrots, blanched spinach, and bean sprouts. Season with a tablespoon of the seasoning sauce. Take the vegetables off the pan and place them in the mixing bowl.
- In the same pan, add the beef and stir fry until done. Take the beef off the pan and add it to the mixing bowl.
- Pour the sauce and toasted sesame seeds over the noodles. Give everything a toss to combine, and you’re done!