Japchae (잡채) is a super popular Korean glass noodle stir fry dish that's great for holidays, special occasions, and even as everyday meals. Bouncy sweet potato noodles stir fried with vegetable, eggs, and meat in a sweet and savory sauce. What's not to love?!
Japchae, or Korean glass noodle stir fry, is one of the most popular menu items at Korean restaurants. It's super easy to make and tastes amazing!
The noodles have a wonderful bounciness to them, and the vegetables added texture and make the whole dish more vibrant. The sauce is well balanced between sweet and savory, with a hint of toasted nuttiness.
What is japchae?
Japchae, pronounced like "chob-cheh," is a Korean sweet potato glass noodle stir-fry with vegetables, eggs, and meat. It's a popular Korean noodle dish that's often served during New Years, for special occasions, everyday meals, or as a side dish.
For the japchae:
- Sweet potato glass noodles - Also known as dangmyeon. They are the classic noodles for making japchae and are known for their amazing bounce and chew. Below is the brand of sweet potato noodles we usually use.
- Beef or pork - Either proteins are great for making japchae. For beef, we usually use cuts like sirloin, flank, or skirt. As for pork, we love using pork chops, loin, butt. But you can really use whatever you have. You can even use chicken instead!
- Eggs - Made into crepes, sliced, then added to the japchae.
- Onion - Highly recommended, as it adds nice texture and extra flavor to japchae.
- Carrot, spinach, mushrooms, green onion - Japchae is a very customizable noodle dish. So feel free to use whatever vegetables you have. These are usually what we always have in the fridge.
- Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
- Salt and pepper - Used to season the beef or pork and vegetables.
For the japchae sauce:
- Soy sauce - We usually use light soy, but regular ones are fine too. Soy sauce also gives japchae its beautiful golden brown color.
- Honey and brown sugar - We like to use a combination of both, but you can use one or the other. If you are out of both honey and brown sugar, you can substitute for plain white sugar.
- Sesame oil - A Korean pantry staple that gives all the dishes that subtle toasted, nutty flavor. We highly recommend it, but you could do without if you wish.
As japchae is one of the most customizable Korean noodles dishes, you can absolutely make it vegan or vegetarian.
The beef or pork can be omitted or replaced with tofu. If you are using tofu, you could also make a little extra japchae sauce and let the tofu marinate for a little bit for extra flavor.
If you are vegan, the eggs can totally be omitted, and the honey can be replaced with brown sugar.
To make the japchae sauce:
Combine the soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Mix until combined, then set aside.
Cook the japchae noodles:
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sweet potato glass noodles. Let the noodles boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked through and the center is no longer white and starchy.
2. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water until completely cooled. Drain and place into a large mixing bowl. Using a pair of kitchen shears to cut the noodles into shorter pieces.
*Different brands of sweet potato noodles may require more or less cooking time. Check frequently after 8 to 10 minutes.*
Cook the eggs, meat, vegetables:
3. In a nonstick pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan and tilt to spread the egg into a thin layer. Cook until the bottom of the eggs are set, then flip to cook the other side briefly.
4. Remove from the pan to let cool. Fold the egg crepe in half and cut into thin slices. Add the eggs to the japchae noodles.
5. In the same pan, heat to medium high and add a small amount of oil. Add the beef or pork and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Sear the meat on each side until cooked. Add the meat to the japchae bowl.
6. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the vegetables on medium high heat, according to heartiness. Season the vegetables with a pinch of salt and black pepper and also add to the japchae bowl.
*For example, add the julienned carrots and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the sliced onion and cook for another 20 to 30 seconds. Next add the mushrooms and spinach, then finish with the green onions. Cook the vegetables until just done.*
Assemble the japchae:
7. Pour the prepared japchae sauce into the nonstick pan and heat on medium. Occasionally stir the sauce until it's hot and starts to bubble. Pour the sauce over the japchae noodles, vegetables, and meat.
8. Toss everything together until well distributed and the japchae noodles are well coated with sauce.
9. Portion the japchae or serve it family style with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
- Don't over cook the noodles! It is very important that the noodles are just cooked (when the center is no longer starchy and white). This will keep your japchae bouncy and chewy. No mushy noodles!
- Rinse the noodles really well in cold water. After draining, make sure to thoroughly rinse the noodles in cold water until they're completely cool. This prevents sticking and helps the noodles stay bouncy and chewy.
- Drain the noodles well. Make sure the noodles are well drained so that it doesn't dilute the sauce.
- Cut the noodles shorter for ease of eating. Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the noodles into shorter pieces so that it's easier to eat.
For smaller portions
Our japchae recipe easily serves 4 to 6 people, but you can totally cut the recipe in half or smaller.
If you are making smaller portions, you can totally toss everything in the pan instead of a large mixing bowl. I do recommend tossing the noodles in the sauce first, before adding the vegetables and meat. This way the noodles are better and more evenly coated with sauce.
Japchae storage and reheating
Japchae makes for great leftover meals. To store, let the japchae cool completely, then wrap well with plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container. You can refrigerate the japchae for 2 to 3 days without the noodles losing it's bouncy texture.
To reheat, you can lightly spray the japchae with some water and microwave until warm. You can also heat it up in a pan on medium heat with a small amount of water. Gently mix the noodles until warm. If you prefer, you could enjoy the japchae chilled.
A good japchae should have bouncy, slightly chewy noodles and is well balanced between sweet and savory with a hint of toasted sesame oil. The vegetables should have texture but not raw.
Japchae is usually served at room temperature or warm because the flavor would be fuller and better. However, you can totally enjoy your japchae chilled!
Japchae noodles are also known as dangmyeon (aka sweet potato noodles). It's naturally fat free, lower in calories, and gluten free. However, because sweet potato noodles are still made of starch, the carb content is similar to regular noodles.
Depending on the brand of japchae noodles, the cook time could vary. But typically japchae noodles take bout 10 to 15 minutes to boil.
To check if the sweet potato noodles are done, pinch a piece of noodle. If it breaks off easily, it's done. Also, you can check to see if the center of the noodles are clear or if they still look slightly white and starch. White and starchy means the noodles need to be boiled a little longer.
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Japchae (Korean Glass Noodle Stir Fry)
- 12 ounces sweet potato glass noodles
- 16 ounce beef cut into strips (cuts like flank, skirt, ribeye are great; you can use pork instead too)
- 2 large egg beaten
- 1 large carrot peeled and julienned (optional)
- 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
- 3 mushrooms thinly sliced (optional; any mushrooms of your choice)
- 2 cups baby spinach packed (optional)
- 2 stalks green onion cut into 1 inch pieces
- Vegetable oil
- Toasted sesame seed (for garnish)
- Salt & pepper as needed
- Make the japchae sauce:Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce until combined. Set aside.
- Cook the japchae (sweet potato) noodles:In a large pot of boiling water, add the japchae noodles and boil until the noodles are cooked through and no longer starchy and white in the center, about 12-15 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent the noodles form sticking together.*Different brand japchae noodles may vary in cook time.*
- Once the sweet potato noodles are cooked, drain it immediately and thoroughly rinse with cold water until completely cooled. Drain the noodles well and transfer to a large mixing bowl.Optional: Use a pair of kitchen sheers to cut the japchae noodles into shorter pieces for ease of eating.
- Make the egg crepe:While waiting on the japchae noodles to cook, heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil and pour in the beaten eggs. Tilt the pan to spread the egg into a thin layer. Cook the eggs until the bottom is set, then flip and cook the other side briefly. Remove from the pan and let cool for a moment.
- Once the egg is cool enough to handle, fold it in half and cut the egg crepe into thin slices. Add the egg to the japchae noodles.
- Cook the beef (or pork):Heat the same nonstick pan with a small amount of oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and lightly season with some salt and pepper. Sauté the beef until cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beef to the bowl of japchae noodles.
- For the vegetables:In the same pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil. Sauté the vegetable according to heartiness and season lightly with salt and black pepper. Cook the vegetables just until they become tender, and add them to the bowl of japchae. DON'T overcook the vegetables because you want some freshness, crunch, and texture!*For example: Add the carrots first and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add the onions and sauté for about 30 seconds, followed by mushrooms, spinach, and green onion.*
- Assemble the japchae:In the same pan, add the prepared japchae sauce. Heat the sauce over medium heat until hot and just starting to bubble. Pour the hot japchae sauce over the bowl of japchae and toss until everything is well distributed and the noodles are well coated with sauce.
- Serve:Portion the japchae or serve it family style with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. This can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or slightly chilled.
- This recipe makes a large quantity of japchae so we tossed everything in a large mixing bowl. If you're making a small portion of this japchae, follow the recipe up to the sauce. Once the sauce is heated, add everything to the sauce, starting with the noodles first. Toss and mix until well distributed and the noodles are well coated with sauce.
- Feel free to omit, substitute, and add vegetables to to this recipe. Japchae is very customizable and will taste just as good!