Japchae looks deceptively like a simple stir-fry, but holy crap was it labourious AF. Because each ingredient had to be cooked separately, making japchae turned out incredibly time-consuming. It's not to say that you can't whip this up as a stir-fry, but it's not the traditional way. And sometimes, I do prefer tradition. Also, stir-frying the entire thingamabob will give you a soggier japchae. Great if you like your noodles sopping wet, but I prefer mine a little drier. Like a noodle salad.
Suffice to say, I'm only ever cooking this for my absolute favouritest people in the world (...to E who said I looked fat the other day, "no japchae for u!")
On the upside, japchae keeps well, reheats beautifully piping hot but makes an excellent chilled banchan as well. And so, japchae something that can be made in advanced, leaving you time to cook other dishes if you're planning a big shindig.
Feel free to up the quantity of the ingredients, chunk up your japchae. I always lament the less-than-plentiful ingredients of just about every restaurant japchae
Ingredients (feeds 4-6 pax as an entree):
200gm beef, sliced into long thin strips, and marinated in non-spicy bulgogi sauce
10 cups roughly chopped spinach
3 cups julienned carrots
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 tbsp julienned black fungus
10 large shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 handfuls of dangmyeon (Korean sweet potato noodles)
about 2 heads of minced garlic, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce and sugar to season the ingredients
sesame seeds for garnishing
Sauce A (mix together in a bowl until sugar dissolves):
8 tbsp guk ganjang
6 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp minced garlic, lightly fried in sesame oil and drained
1) Blanch spinach in salted boiling water, about 40 seconds. Drain and squeeze out excess water from the spinach. Toss in 1 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tsp soy sauce. Set aside, in the fridge if necessary.
2) Lightly stir through shitake and black fungus in 3 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp minced garlic, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp sugar, and 3 tbsp water, tossing frequently, until sauce is just about absorbed. Set aside, store in fridge if necessary.
3) Fry beef with 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp of its marinade. It'll cook very fast so as soon as it turns colour, remove from heat and set aside, in the fridge if necessary.
4) Fry onions in 1 tbsp sesame oil and a pinch of salt, about 2 minutes or until translucent, finishing off by tossing in 2 tsp minced garlic, until just fragrant. Set aside in fridge.
5) Fry carrots in 2 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tsp soy sauce, until just soft, finishing off by stir-frying through 2 tsp minced garlic. Set aside, in the fridge if necessary.
6) Cook dangmyeon in salted boiling water until just translucent. Drain and set aside.
7) Toss with sauce A. Start with about 5 tbsp of the sauce, taste before increasing amount of sauce, to season the noodles. Some prefer it less salty, I like mine robust, so I added about 7 tbsp of the sauce.
8) Combine with all of the chilled ingredients that were set aside earlier. And toss through. If you have kids, this is where they can help. Now, you can serve it immediately, tepid, or store in the fridge for subsequent eating.
9) OR, you can heat it through again, for a piping hot dish.
10) Serve with lashings of sesame seeds, black or white are fine.
And voila, the japchae is ready to eat!