Japchae (잡채) is a classic Korean recipe that you’ll find at just about every celebration or potluck. “Chae” (채) refers to finely cut pieces, analogous to the Western julienne cut, so a lot of time and effort has to go into making any kind of japchae. Because of this, you may sometimes see japchae with a lot of noodles (and we totally understand!), but take an extra moment to appreciate the veggie-filled versions of japchae. A lot of heart and love goes into that.
Another important element of japchae: color! Obangsaek (오방색) refers to the five primary, essential colors that govern the five directions (north, south, east, west, center), five elements (water, fire, wood, stone, earth) and four seasons revolving around the center: black, red, blue/green, white, yellow. Balancing these colors on the Korean table has been traditionally considered essential to health and well-being, so you’ll find all five colors in japchae as well.
Most people use spinach as their blue/green color in japchae, but we’ve been playing with a fun summer beach green lately: Hamcho (함초, samphire, glasswort or sea asparagus) is a salty, crunchy green that adds a delightful pop of savory flavor. Because hamcho is quite salty, I’ve used a lot less salt and soy sauce in my seasoning here—you may need to add more to taste if you’re using a different green vegetable.
As always, please feel free to leave a note in the comments if you have any suggestions or questions!
150g glass noodles
70g hamcho (tender, small shoots), about 2 heaping handfuls
1 small onion
⅓ large carrot
100g mushrooms (any kind will do, though pyogo/shiitake is classic)
100g pork butt (lean meat), cut into thin strips
for the pork marinade:
2 tsp yangjo ganjang (wheat-based soy sauce)
1 clove garlic, minced
tiny piece of ginger, minced
1 tsp rice wine
pinch of black pepper
drizzle of sesame oil
for the mushroom marinade:
Same as the pork marinade, but replace 2 tsp soy sauce with 1 tsp
to finish the noodles:
1 tbsp yangjo ganjang (wheat-based soy sauce)
1 tsp brown or white sugar
drizzle of sesame oil
2 tsp ground roasted sesame seeds
1. Bring a pot with plenty of water to cover the noodles to a hard boil, add the noodles and cook for about 6 minutes covered. When the noodles are chewy and not soft all the way through, drain and rinse with cold running water a couple of times. Set aside on a sieve to drain.
2. Cut the pork and mushrooms into thin, pinky-sized strips and marinate separately for about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make your jidan (지단, egg garnish): Separate the yolks and whites, and make thin crêpes with each (see our jidan recipe for tips and a helpful video!). Once they have completely cooled down, slice them into thin strips about 4 to 5 cm long. It’s easy to break the pieces if you slice them while hot, so don’t rush it!
4. Julienne the onion and carrots finely and sauté them slightly with salt and pepper. Set aside.
5. Make sure you break your hamcho down into pinky-sized, tender pieces. Some of the larger, woody stems can be hiding unpleasantly stringy, even sharp, fibers inside. Sauté the hamcho very quickly and do not season. Set aside.
6. Sauté the mushrooms and then the pork. Set aside.
7. In a big mixing bowl, combine the noodles and sautéed ingredients. Add 1 tbsp of ganjang (soy sauce) and 1 tsp of sugar. Drizzle a good amount of sesame oil in and add spoonful of ground roasted sesame seeds. Mix thoroughly and serve warm or at room temperature.