Monday, November 22, 2010

Potluck success! Korean glass noodle salad (japchae)

A friend hosted an office potluck and karaoke party last night and I was torn between making sesame noodles or Korean japchae. After I saw Maangchi's recipe and post on her blog though, I decided to go with the latter.

 The heart and soul of japchae comes from the noodle. Japchae noodles are made from sweet potato starch and are thick and chewy. They have an awesome consistency when cooked right that allows them to be eaten hot or cold with the same enjoyment. I used two bundles of noodles since I was cooking for a large group. Otherwise, 1 bunch would probably do. When the noodles are done cooking (~5 minutes), remove them with tongs, and do not drain the water. Repeat: DO NOT drain the water. Rinse your noodles in cool water to stop the cooking, then toss with 2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil.

Why? because you need to blanch the spinach, and the time you would take to boil another pot of water is a huge waste. So. Do the right thing and use the water twice. Blanch 2 bunches of spinach (washed, stems roughly chopped off) for about 30 seconds, then rinse to cool. I only used 2 bunches, and had to add a bag of frozen "Steam Fresh!" so, if you were making a regular sized batch, I would still go for 2 big bunches. Set the spinach aside. You can mix with 2 TBS soy sauce and some fresh or powdered garlic at this point.

Now, get that chopping arm ready. Chop 4 carrots, 2 bell peppers, 2 bunches of spring onions (somehow I didn't get a picture of those) and 1 large onion into match-stick size pieces (thin slices for the onion). If you're making a small batch, just half those portions. Fry each in about 1 TBS oil for ~2-3 minutes (~ 4-5 for the onion) then pour into the noodles.

The last step, slice up some shitake mushrooms (I used fresh, but you'd be fine to use dried -- just let them steep in hot water for 15-30 minutes until soft) and some beef. Use any cut you like. You want equal proportions of beef to mushrooms, and make them about the same size- 1-inch or smaller strips. Fry them together (you don't need any oil, the mushrooms release a ton of liquid) with 2 TBS soy sauce, 1 TBS sugar and 1 TBS rice vinegar or rice wine. Drain the liquid, the add to the noodles.

Lastly, season your entire bowl with about 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup sugar and a small handful of toasted sesame seeds. Mix with your hands to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Serve warm or cold with rice and banchan.

Shopping list (for a regular sized batch - serves 6-8)
Korean sweet potato noodles (1 bunch)
Spinach (2 bunches)
Carrots, 2 (if you get the asian-style carrots - they're huge - you probably only need 1)
Red bell pepper, 1 (if you're going to leave out anything, this would be the 1 optional ingredient)
Green onions, 1 bunch
White or yellow onion, 1 small to medium size
Shitake mushrooms, about 6-8(I probably used 10 or 12 for the big batch)
Beef, thinly sliced (the cut I bought at the Asian grocery was called "beef-regular" and cost $2.49 a lb)
Soy sauce
sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds


  1. Looks delicious! Thanks for husband loves this and I'll score points with his mom for trying to make it!

  2. Yay!! Let me know how it turns out! :)