One of my favourite Korean dishes to feed a crowd is japchae. With the exception of the noodles, it is actually quite a healthy dish consisting of sweet potato noodles, spinach, carrots, egg ribbons, scallions, red pepper, mushrooms, and traditionally, marinated beef. My version of the dish is vegetarian which can easily be made vegan if you omit the egg. This dish can also be made gluten-free as well as long as you use a gluten-free version of soy sauce.
First off, the noodles: you will need to get dangmyeon. Dangmyeon is part of the glass noodle family and is a bouncy and stretchy noodle made out of sweet potatoes. It is translucent and will also soak up any type of flavouring and colouring that is added to the dish you are making. I haven't ever found or used this in any other application with the exception of mandu (Korean dumplings). These noodles also come in large packages and need to be soaked beforehand to make them pliable. They are usually cut in half as well as they are quite long.
Next up: the vegetables. Japchae usually features a number of very colourful vegetables including shiitake mushrooms, white mushrooms, red pepper, carrots, and spinach. You'll want to get a little bit in each bite so don't be shy and definitely don't skimp out!
Flavour: I'm talking about the sauce. The main flavouring agent in this entire dish is made out of a simple sweet soy mixture. It brings the entire dish together. You'll need to mix all of the noodles quite thoroughly to ensure that all of the noodles take on all of the much-needed flavour. You'll know when you've done so correctly as the noodles will turn brown!
Don't be alarmed with all of the ingredients and prep - I've made this dish on my Instagram live story in 30 minutes from start to finish (minus soaking time) but it really is quite simple! Leftovers keep for up to 5 days and still tastes as good as day one.
JAPCHAE - serves 4-6 (adapted from Maangchi)
1/2 (500g) package dangmyeon, soaked in water for 1 hour
1 cup dried baby shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water, covered, for 1 hour, drained and julienned
1 bunch spinach, washed
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp gochugaru (optional)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large Asian carrot, cut into thirds and julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
3 stalks scallions, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp sesame oil
sesame seeds (to garnish)
salt + pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the spinach for 30 seconds. Remove, drain and let cool. Cut into thirds. Add the dangmyeon to the pot and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and add sesame oil to avoid the noodles from sticking together. Set aside.
Cook the egg in a single layer over medium heat in a small egg pan or non-stick. Let cool and cut into ribbons. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, granulated sugar and sesame oil until well-combined and until most of the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
In a large wok over medium-high heat, add the oil to the pan. Add your onion, garlic and gochugaru and saute until you get a good wok sear, about 4 minutes.
Add the carrot to the pan and after 5 minutes add the julienned red bell pepper.
Lastly add your noodles and sauce. Add the cooked spinach and scallions and mix well. Add sesame seeds to garnish.