This Korean noodle dish is a huge crowd pleaser and worth the effort. My Korean friends tell me that it is made for happy occasions. You could, of course, just fry everything together but the result would be wet, muddy in flavour and texture and not that happy. Cooking each ingredient separately gives it the respect it deserves and results in a great looking and great tasting dish. It is also good the next day, straight out of the fridge.
Japchae can be made vegetarian by omitting the beef, and gluten free by using gluten free soy sauce. Fry the onions slightly then add the beef seasonings for the vegetarian version. —Karen Barnaby
For the beef, shiitake mushrooms & eggs
1-inch thick sirloin steak
dried shiitake mushrooms
freshly ground black pepper
cloves garlic, minced
sea salt as needed
neutral flavoured vegetable oil, as needed
For the vegetables & noodles
fresh spinach, washed and drained
2 1/2 cups
large cultivated white mushrooms, thinly sliced
red bell pepper, cored & cut into thin strips
onions, sliced into thin half moons
dried sweet potato noodles
roasted asian sesame oil
green onions, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces, then cut crosswise into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces
toasted sesame seeds
In This Recipe
Freeze the steak for 20 minutes or until the outside is firm. Place the mushrooms in a heatproof bowl. Pour enough boiling water over them to submerge them and let them soak for 20-30 minutes until softened. Start preparing the vegetables while waiting for the steak and mushrooms.
When the steak is firm, slice crosswise into 1/8-inch ( cm) slices and place in a large bowl. Trim the stems from the mushrooms and discard. Thinly slice the caps and add to the beef. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, pepper and garlic to evenly coat the beef and mushrooms. Cover and refrigerate. Reserve the onions.
Crack the egg into a small bowl and remove the white membrane. Beat well to evenly combine the yolk and white. Beat in a pinch of salt. Heat an 8-10 inch nonstick frying pan over low heat and film with oil. Pour in the egg and swirl the pan to cover the bottom with the egg. Remove from the heat and cover until the egg firms up. Remove the egg sheet to a plate and roll it up into a tube. Reserve.
Bring a really large pot of water to a boil, big enough to cook all the noodles in. Plunge the spinach into the water and remove with a skimmer as soon as it wilts and transfer to a large bowl of cold water. Drain and squeeze the water out of the spinach with your hands. Add the carrots to the boiling water and cook for a scant minute. Remove with a skimmer into a bowl of cold water to cool. Drain the carrots.
Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook for 7-9 minutes. The noodles should be soft, yet have a definite chew. Drain well and place in a very large bowl. Add the salt, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Toss well to evenly coat the noodles with the mixture. Set aside.
In a large, heavy frying pan or wok, heat a scant amount of oil over high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and fry until the soft and lightly browned. Add to the noodles. Wipe out the pan and repeat the process with the peppers, cooking until the peppers soften slightly but still crisp. Add to the noodles. Wipe out the pan once more and heat to smoking. Add 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of oil and the onions. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the beef and shiitake mushrooms. Stir fry until the beef is cooked through. Add to the noodles.
Loosen up the spinach into somewhat separate leaves and add to the noodles along with the carrots, green onions and sesame seeds. Slice the egg sheet thinly crosswise and add the strips. Toss everything well. Now taste the noodles. Do they need more salt, soy, sesame oil or sugar? Add whatever you feel is lacking to achieve a pleasing balance. You are now ready to serve.