Mind-blowing is not really the right word. I wonder if “palette epiphany” is a phrase? I hope so because I had a palette epiphany a couple of weeks ago during a potluck lunch celebrating a friend’s birthday. Pot“luck” is an apropos name for such an occasion because as luck would have it, a Korean neighbor introduced me to Japchae.

Japchae is traditionally served in Korea during a birthday celebration I was told. I think I could eat it every day, “un”birthdays included! Twice since that fateful day, I’ve prepared my own versions, once with beef and the second time with turkey breast. My neighbor served a vegetarian Japchae which was “lick your plate” delicious. I will need a lot more practice to perfect the timing and flavoring. But if I say so myself, they were not too bad for first-time attempts.

Unfortunately I do not have an “after” photo of the beef version. To be perfectly honest, I was so excited to try it, the bowl disappeared before I remembered to shoot a picture.

Ingredients – Serves 4

Dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles)
Beef, chicken, pork, or turkey (optional)
Shiitake mushrooms (soaked in warm water)
Garlic, minced
Sugar
Soy sauce (Korean if available)
Sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Egg
Spinach
Green onions
White onion
Button mushrooms
Carrot (matchsticks)
Red bell pepper
Black pepper
Salt
Vegetable oil

Directions

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Slice into small bite-sized strips the meat and shiitake mushrooms. Place in a bowl. Marinate with 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp. sugar, 4-5 grinds black pepper, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil. Mix and place in fridge until ready.

Prepare the rest of your veggies as you would for any stir fry. Keep them separate from one another. They are all stir fried separately. I was lazy and bought a bag of carrot match sticks. Clean and slice mushrooms. Clean and cut bell pepper into matchsticks. Half a small white or yellow onion and then cut into thin slices. Clean and cut green onion into 1-inch sections.

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Separate egg yolk and save the white to use another day. Add a pinch of salt to yellow and stir in to break yolk. Heat nonstick frying pan. Turn off heat and add egg yellow. Roll in pan to thin it out. After the heat of the pan cooks it on one side, flip to cook other side. Takes about a minute per side. This egg garnish is called jidan. Let it cool and cut into very thin strips.

Blanch about 4 ounces of fresh spinach in pot of boiling water (a minute of less). I used bagged spinach so did not rinse it first. If you use un-bagged, then rinse it well before blanching. Run under cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze out the water and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in large bowl. Add 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil and mix well. Set aside.

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Use the spinach water and boil 4-6 ounces of noodles for about 8 minutes. Strain and rinse. They are super long so use a pair of scissors and cut them into shorter lengths. Not bite-sized, but long strands like boxed spaghetti length. Add them to the large bowl and season with 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar. Mix well. Set aside.

Time to stir fry! Heat your non-stick frying pan (or wok) to medium high. Add some vegetable oil. Judge your own cook times. The first time I made this I over-cooked some of the veggies.

Start with the onion and green onion. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add to the noodle bowl. Set aside.

Reheat the pan, add more vegetable oil, and stir fry mushrooms for 2 minutes. Add to noodle bowl.

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Reheat pan. Add more oil. Stir fry carrots for 20 seconds. Add bell pepper to the same pan and cook 20 more seconds. Transfer to noodle bowl.

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Reheat pan with oil. Stir fry the meat and mushroom mixture you marinated until meat is no longer pink. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

You are almost finished! Grab your noodle bowl and add another minced clove of garlic, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon sugar, ground black pepper to taste, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds. Mix everything together. Sprinkle more sesame seeds on top to finish.

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I’m not sure what the Korean phrase for “dig in” is, but if I did, I would add it here! I’d love to hear from anyone who tried making this or has their own version to share! Leave comments below!

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4 thoughts on “Japchae – You’ll Wish Every Day Was Your Birthday!

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