I've been living for the past four years with a jar of kimchi in the fridge, and have explored Korean barbecue for the past two. But for some reason I had never sat down to japchae until a few weeks ago. Instead of aggressive and spicy, it was comforting and calming—the kind of home-style dish that I could imagine needing during a hectic week. This version from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook is a good recreation, even if I did have to bump up the soy sauce factor.
Japchae is really about the combination of Korean noodles and thinly sliced vegetables, like carrots and onions. The mushrooms and spinach help to bulk it out and the beef adds some protein. The sauce is just a mixture of soy sauce and brown sugar, but you can definitely add chili flakes if you're feeling up to it.
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 8 ounces dried Korean glass noodles
- 3 ounces fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup thinly sliced onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 scallions, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6 ounces flank steak, very thinly sliced against the grain
- 1 carrot, peeled, end trimmed, cut into matchsticks
- ¼ pound spinach leaves
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Combine the soy sauce and brown sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook for five minutes. Drain noodles in a colander and then rinse under cold water. Drain noodles again. Cut noodles into 8-inch lengths with a pair of kitchen shears, and toss in a large bowl with the sesame oil. Set aside.
Place a large wok over high heat. Add the oil, and when smoking, add the onion, garlic, scallion, and the beef. Stir-fry until beef is just slightly pink in the middle, 30 seconds to one minute. Add the carrots, spinach, and mushrooms. Stir-fry until carrots and tender and spinach has wilted, about one minute.
Pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok and add the noodles. Toss mixture well, and cook until noodles are warmed through, about two minutes. Divide mixture between four plates, and garnish with a sprinkling of the sesame seeds.