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Korean Japchae Noodles with Gochujang Sauce

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Japchae noodles

This week we are making a popular Korean dish that was first served to the 15th ruler of Korea, King Gwanghaegun in the 17th century. Thank God, we, mere mortals, can now all enjoy it! It can be made in less than 30 minutes so this qualifies as a quick stir-fry in my book. Maybe even a royal quick lunch!

What makes this dish pretty unique is the kind of noodles that are used. They are transparent and smooth and they are made with sweet potato. This makes them a great gluten-free alternative that has more fiber than wheat noodles and makes you feel more satiated. Some people love them and others, not so much because of their slippery texture. I think that they are kind of cool! As a noodle fan, I love having so many options to choose from. This is also a great way of getting different types of nutrients in your diet and making your kids eat different kinds of beans, and potatoes, without them ever knowing! You gotta do what you gotta do to be healthy!

This week’s recipe started with me having a craving for Korean noodles after seeing a post on Instagram. I looked in the pantry for these special noodles.  I found lots of rice noodles, some thin, some flat, and some wide, some made with bean flour, and tapioca starch. Seriously, we have enough that we could probably open a noodle shop! But no Korean sweet potato noodles! Dang! Back to the drawing board!

I went to our local grocery store, but nothing. Not really a surprise, as this was a long shot but I had to try! No problem, if all else fails, there is always Amazon. I ordered them Saturday night, they said I would get them Monday. Perfect! We are back on track! Monday arrived, and no noodles on the porch! I checked my orders, and for some unknown reason, they were now arriving on Wednesday! Not cool people!

I am getting a little flustered because I like to work on my recipes over the week-end so that I can post on Monday or Tuesday. So when plans A, B, and C failed, I had to pivot to plan D:  go to the Asian grocery store. If you have ever shopped at an Asian grocery store you will have noticed an entire aisle (both sides) dedicated to noodles.

glass noodles

I even found more on the other side! It is quite impressive! So many varieties and all are so affordable. $2-3 for 5-10 servings depending on the package size! Since I am a half-full glass kind of person, I got more noodles for a lot less and picked up a few things I needed too!

Types of clear noodles

It took me a while to figure out that there are different types of clear noodles. At first, I could only tell the difference between rice noodles and the other kinds that were more transparent. Looking at the labels I noticed that they have different names, like glass, cellophane, bean thread, and vermicelli noodles.

They can be made with mung beans, yam, cassava, or even tapioca flour (they tend to be semi-transparent). Others, like Korean potato noodles, are made with sweet potato. They look hardier than rice noodles. But no worry you can use other noodles to make this dish.

What are sweet potato noodles?

Sweet potato noodles

Sounds weird right? How can you make noodles out of sweet potatoes? You turn the potatoes into flour! You may have tasted these noodles in Korean and Thai dishes without knowing what they were made with. They look a little like a super thick fish line string or thin LED rope light! And if you squint a little, the back of an old man’s hair! I can’t help it, I have a vivid imagination! You need to precook them for a few minutes to soften them before adding them to stews or stir-fries.

When cooked, they get a little bigger but don’t double in size like other noodles. They become semi-transparent and have an entirely different texture. Smoother, and more slippery than rice or wheat noodles.

cooked glass noodles

When it comes to taste, they are fairly neutral making them a perfect addition to soups, stir-fries even cold salads. You can also use them in Spring rolls. These are the kind of noodles you slurp and cut with your teeth because they are the slippery kind. That’s what makes them fun and comforting!

To boil or not to boil!

If you are using Korean potato noodles, you need to precook your noodles for a few minutes to soften them up. If using other noodles like bean noodles, or tapioca starch noodles, I prefer to just soak them in hot water for 20-30 minutes. By not boiling them, you ensure that the noodles are not overcooked and turn mushy. You will reheat them with the sauce and veggies, so no worry.

Japchae noodles vegetables

While the noodles are cooking, you can prepare the vegetables. Slice the onion, cabbage, and red pepper, and chop the spinach and green onion. Cut the carrots into match sticks. Set aside. It is best to use a large frying pan because the vegies take a lot of space at first, then reduce a little after they cook down.

Make the Japchae sauce which is essentially a lightly sweetened soy sauce and some gochujang (or chili paste) if you like a little kick. 1 1/4 cup looks like a lot of sauce but the noodles will soak half of it and the rest will go on the vegetables.

First, heat a little oil and pan-fry the onion, then the cabbage, and the red pepper. Sprinkle a little salt. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Second, in the same pan, add the softened noodles and half of the sauce. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.

Third, add the vegetables and the other half of the sauce. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes uncovered. Taste and season.
Top with chopped green onions and white and black sesame seeds. Some fresh coriander can be added too. It couldn’t be more simple!

Japchae noodles with Gochujang sauce

TIPS:

– After you precook the noodles and set them aside, leave a few tablespoons of water in the bowl so that they don’t clump together.
– You can skip the Gochujang sauce if you don’t like it hot! It will be more on the sweet side.
– Glass noodles are soft when hot but they will harden if you refrigerate them. No worries, all you need to do is add a little water to a pan and reheat them. You can also nuke them in the microwave if you don’t mind the radiation! I only use ours to disinfect our sponges!

So, I hope you give it a try because it is fun and exciting to discover new flavors, textures, and worlds! Plus everyone will enjoy slurping their noodles!  There is no classy way to do this, so don’t even try!

 

Japchae noodles

Korean Japchae Noodles with Gochujang

Soft smooth transparent noodles made with sweet potato flour are cooked with vegetables in a sweet soy sauce and some gochujang
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Entree
Cuisine Asian, korean

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package of Korean glass noodles
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1-2 cups spinach or other leafy greens
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 cup cabbage (red or yellow)

Japchae sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 2-3 tbsp sesame oil (toasted)
  • 1-2 tbsp Gochujang (chili sauce)

Toppings

  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (black or white)

Instructions
 

Precook the noodles

  • Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the dry noodles (a good handful per person) and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Use tongs to push down the noodles and detangle them as they soften.
  • Bite into one noodles, the middle should be cooked but the outside still firm. Cook longer if needed or drain and place in bowl with a few tablespoon of the cooking liquid.

Prepare the vegetables

  • Peel and slice the onion. Core and slice the red bell pepper.
  • Peel the carrots and cut them into match sticks. Thinly slice the cabbage.
  • If using frozen spinach, use 1 cup and quickly blanch to thaw off. If using fresh spinach set aside at least 2 cups as it will shrink big time!
  • Chop the green onions and set aside.

Make the Japchae with Gochujang Sauce

  • Combine all the ingredients and whisk the Gochujang sauce (if using). Set aside.

Putting it together

  • Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Add the sliced onion and cook for a minute, add the cabbage and red pepper with a pinch of salt and stir.
  • Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan.
  • In the same pan, add the softened noodles and half of the sauce. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the vegetables and the other half of the sauce. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes uncovered.
  • Taste and season
  • Serve immediately and top with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.
Keyword gluten-free, Noodle bowl

 

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