Have you ever been at Korean buffet or Korean food catering place to eat delicious Korean food? If you did, you definitely saw or tried the Korean stir-fried cellophane noodle dish called Japchae. Japchae is one of the most popular and common traditional Korean foods. Compared to the homemade ones, I see a few unique things about restaurant japchae. One is that restaurant japchae seems to keep the shiny oily texture of the noodles longer than homemade ones. Like any other noodle dishes, you can imagine that the noodles become fluffy/soggy as the time goes. Restaurants need to do something about that since you do not want to serve customers soggy noodles. Another thing is that most restaurant japchae doesn’t have meat in it. If the japchae comes as a side or buffet menu in the restaurant, the restaurant makes it cheaper by skipping the meat. Skipping the meat also makes it good for vegetarians or vegans. As a result, restaurant japchae tends to have a more glossy texture and it is meatless. But, the taste is still delicious and if you make restaurant-style japchae at home, it is okay to make it ahead of time for your party or meal since it keeps better. Of course, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, this is just perfect for you. So today, I will post my second japchae recipe for japchae – my restaurant or vegetarian version.
Yield: 4-6 Servings
Short Korean Lesson
- HyeolGwan (혈관) = Blood Vessel
- HyeolAek (혈액) = Blood
- ½ lb Cellophane Noodles (4 Cups Cooked)
- ½ lb Spinach (1 Cup Cooked)
- 1½ Cups Onion
- 1 Cup Carrot
- 1 Cup Red and Yellow Sweet Peppers
- 2 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
- Some Cooking Oil for Stir-fry
- 5 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 5 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
- 3 Tbsp Cooking Oil
- 1 Tbsp Garlic, Minced
- 1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
- ½ Tbsp Sesame Oil
- ⅛ tsp Black Pepper
At first, you will need ½ lb of cellophane noodles. You can find them in a Korean or an Asian grocery store. Get 2 big pots of water to cook the noodles and spinach. You need more water for the noodles than the spinach.
While the water is heating, prepare the vegetable ingredients. Soak 2 dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for few minutes. Some people like me might not like the flavor of dried shiitake mushrooms. It’s totally optional, so you can skip them. I just added them in this recipe to show you how people in Korea make this vegan version japchae.
You will also need about ½ lb of spinach. Remove any bad parts and wash it good.
Julienne 1½ cups worth of onions, 1 cup of carrot, 1 cup of red and yellow sweet peppers. By now, the mushrooms will have softened. Remove the leaf stems and cut them into thin slices.
The water will be ready too. Put the prepared noodles into one pot and cook for 7 minutes on medium-high.
Put the spinach into the other one and cook for 30 seconds on medium-high. If your spinach is big, you can cook it for a minute.
When the spinach is done cooking, quickly drain the hot water and rinse it in cold water.
Squeeze out the water gently from the spinach. If the leaves are big, cut them into smaller pieces. Season the cooked spinach with 2 pinches of salt and set it aside.
Check your noodles. The noodles will be soft and chewy in 7-8 minutes.
Drain out the hot water and rinse the noodles in cold water several times. To remove the extra starch from the noodles, wash them by rubbing the noodles as you rinse them. This will help you get a better glossy and shiny look later.
Drain out the water and set it aside with the other vegetables.
To make the sauce, add 5 Tbsp soy sauce, 5 Tbsp dark brown sugar, 3 Tbsp cooking oil in a nonstick pan. Mix it well. This process is another tip for making glossy japchae like restaurants.
Once the sauce starts to boil, add the noodles and fry for about 3 minutes, or until the sauce has almost disappeared on medium-high.
Meanwhile fry the vegetable ingredients. First add about ½ tsp of cooking oil in a heated pan and add the onion with 2 pinches of salt. Fry quickly for about 2 minutes on medium-high. Remove the cooked onions and fry the next vegetable in the same pan using the same method.
Fry the carrot with ¼ tsp of cooking oil and 1 pinch of salt for about 1 minute.
Then fry the sweet peppers with ¼ tsp of cooking oil and 1 pinch of salt for about 1 minute. If you want to add shiitake mushrooms, fry them last with ¼ tsp of cooking oil and 1 pinch of salt for about 2 minute.
Now, your noodles should be ready for the vegetables. Add all the fried vegetables. And then, add 1 Tbsp of minced garlic and ⅛ tsp of black pepper to the noodles.
Fry for about 2 minutes and then turn off the heat.
For the final touch, season the Japchae with ½ Tbsp of sesame oil. If you do not have sesame oil or don’t like the flavor, you can skip it. I already made this recipe without using sesame oil for my husband and it was still delicious. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds on top before serving.
The dish looks very colorful and delicious. If you compare this recipe with my original version of Japchae, you can see this is a lot simpler and easier to make. It is amazing to see that it can be still flavorful even without any seasoned meat in it. It is good for a lunch box, pot luck party, or regular simple meal. Please try this someday. Thanks. 🙂