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Japchae (Korean Sweet-Potato Noodles)

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)

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This classic Korean dish is good served hot or cold. You can serve it over rice, if you like — this is called japchae-bap — but it's perfectly satisfying on its own.


  1. 10 to 12 oz. dangmyen (sweet-potato-starch vermicelli noodles; see Note)
  2. Peanut or other vegetable oil for frying
  3. 1 medium onion, sliced into strips
  4. 1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
  5. 12 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes, stems removed and caps sliced into strips, soaking water reserved
  6. ¼ cup Chinese rice wine (shaoxing wine)
  7. 2 cloves garlic, diced
  8. 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, diced
  9. 1½ cups (about 8 oz.) frozen spinach, soaked in the mushroom water, then drained (see Note)
  10. 1 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  11. 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  12. ¼ cup soy sauce, plus more as needed
  13. 2 Tbsp. sugar
  14. ¾ lb. flank steak, pork loin, or extra-firm tofu, sliced into 2-inch-long strips
  15. Salt, pepper, soy sauce, chile sauce (preferably gochu-chang, a Korean hot sauce), and kimchi, to taste


  1. Cook the noodles: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles in the water for 4 to 6 minutes, then drain and immediately rinse under cold running water. Place the noodles in a large serving bowl and use kitchen shears to snip the noodles into 6-inch lengths.
  2. Cook the vegetables: Put the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet. Over medium to medium-high heat, cook the sliced onion, carrot, and mushrooms until the onion starts to turn translucent and the carrot has softened slightly. Add the rice wine, garlic, and ginger, and cook for a minute or two. Add the spinach, sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar, and cook for a few minutes more. Toss with the noodles.
  3. Cook the meat: Add a little more oil and soy sauce to the hot pan, then add the slices of meat or tofu. Sear on one side, then turn to cook on the remaining sides. When cooked through, add to the noodles and vegetables. Toss, then serve with the optional condiments.


Culinate editor's notes: If you can't find sweet-potato-starch noodles at your local Asian market, cellophane (glass) noodles make a good substitute. And you can use fresh spinach, of course, but frozen spinach is faster and easier.