JAPCHAE (STIR-FRIED NOODLES)

INGREDIENTS

SERVES

4-6

METHOD

250 g sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon)
7 or 8 dried wood ear mushrooms (mogi-beoseot)

Meat (optional):
150 g beef sirloin steak
10 ml soy sauce
10 ml brown (or white) sugar
5 ml sesame oil

Gyeran-jidan egg garnish (optional):
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
5 ml vegetable oil

Seasoning sauce:
60 ml cup soy sauce
45 ml brown (or white) sugar
2.5 ml ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced

Assemble dish:
250 g bunch spinach
250 g oyster mushrooms sliced into long strips
1 large onion
1 large carrot
60 ml vegetable oil
60 ml water
15 ml sesame seeds
15 ml sesame oil
15 ml Sesame seed to garnish

Served as a side dish during lunch or dinner, japchae is a traditional noodle dish made up of stir-fried sweet potato noodles, thinly shredded vegetables, beef, and a hint of soy sauce and sugar. Like all the recipes in this chapter on Korea, it is served in a large bowl for guests to help themselves, but it makes a delicious supper on its own. Without the beef, it is a magnificent vegetarian meal.

Put the noodles in a bowl and cover with cold water to soak while you prepare the other elements for this dish. They should soak for at least 40 minutes before you use them. At the same time, in a separate bowl, soak the washed wood-ear mushrooms too.

Slice the beef into thin strips, cutting across the grain of the steak. Mix the soy, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl. Add the beef and mix by hand until the sugar is completely dissolved. Leave to marinate while you prepare the egg garnish (at least 15 minutes).

Whisk the eggs together with the salt. Strain into another bowl to remove any solids. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large non-stick pan coating the base well. Give it a swipe with paper towel to remove any excess. Turn the heat down low and pour in the egg mixture.
Swirl to fully coat the base of the pan. After a minute or so check that the bottom of the egg is lightly cooked but not brown. Flip and remove the pan from the heat. Let it cook in the cooling pan for a few minutes.
When it’s cool, tip the egg onto a board and slice it into thin ribbons. Store in a covered container until required.

Cook the meat in a hot pan, stirring with a wooden spoon until nicely brown and cooked through, then set aside.

Combine the seasoning sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Cover and set aside.

Wash, stalk and shred the spinach and set aside. Drain the wood-ear mushrooms, remove the tough stems, then chop the caps into bite-size pieces. Slice the oyster mushrooms into long strips. Finely slice the onion and cut the peeled carrot into 2,5cm matchsticks.
Place the mushrooms, onion and carrot in a large pot and add the vegetable oil and water. Mix well with your hands so the ingredients are nicely coated with oil to stop everything absorbing the seasoning sauce and turning brown.
Spread the spinach over the top in an even layer. Drain the noodles, cut them into roughly 12 cm lengths and place them on top of the spinach in the pot. Drizzle the seasoning sauce on top of the noodles.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Open the lid and stir and gently toss all the ingredients with tongs for a minute or two until all the liquid has evaporated and the noodles are nicely cooked and shiny.
If you are adding meat, do so now, then add 15 ml sesame seeds, and the sesame oil. Gently toss the mixture so that everything is evenly distributed.

Transfer to a large platter and garnish with the egg ribbons and the remaining sesame seeds to serve.

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