Japchae (Stir-Fried Starch Noodles with Beef and Vegetables)

Made with bouncy sweet potato starch noodles, dangmyeon, japchae (or chapchae) is a classic Korean dish everyone loves! Find out how to make authentic, delicious japchae with this time tested, readers’ favorite recipe!
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What is japchae?

Japchae (잡채) literally means “mixed vegetables.” But the main ingredient of this classic dish is Korean sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon), also known as glass noodles. It’s an essential dish for traditional holidays and special occasions. There are many variations using different ingredients, such as Spicy Seafood Japchae and Kongnamul Japchae.

In this traditional japchae recipe, the chewy and springy noodles are nicely paired with thin strips of beef (or pork) and various vegetables in a slightly sweet and savory sauce. The classic vegetables for japchae are carrots, spinach, onions, and mushrooms. Other common vegetable options include cucumbers, chili peppers, bell peppers, garlic chives, etc. 

To make it vegan, simply omit the meat and add a little more mushrooms or other vegetables. Pan-fried tofu is also a good substitute for the meat. 

Serve it as an appetizer or a side dish or over a bed of rice to make it a main dish.

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How to make japchae

I make this dish by separately cooking each ingredient and then combine everything at the end into a deliciously colorful dish. This traditional method is what makes this dish so special! Once you have the meat and vegetables prepared, it really doesn’t take much time to cook. 

However, if you want to take a short cut and cook some of the vegetables together, it can be done. Regardless, do not overcook the vegetables. The vegetables should be slightly crunchy or “al dente” to pair well with soft noodles. 

The real secret to successfully creating the authentic flavors of this dish is to find the right balance between soy sauce and sugar. This japchae recipe will give you that right balance! Be sure to proportionately increase the sauce amount if you’re using more ingredients than the amounts called for in the recipe. 

To make the process a little easier, I make a bowl of sauce first to be used throughout the cooking process. Use brown sugar, if available, for color and a bit extra flavor. 

If you’re making this dish for a special day, an egg garnish (jidan, 지단) is a nice thing to add. Sometimes, I also sprinkle with some finely chopped pine nuts.

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How to store leftover japchae

Leftover japchae should be kept refrigerated. It will keep well for 3 to 4 days and reheats nicely in the microwave. The noodles will get soft and chewy again.

More japchae recipes

Spicy seafood japchae
Kongnamul japchae (Soybean sprout japchae)

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Japchae (stir-fried starch noodles with beef and vegetables)

4.47 from 217 votes
Appetizer, Side Dish
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces Korean potato starch noodles (dangmyeon, 당면)
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 2 scallions
  • 4 ounces lean beef (sirloin or rib eye)
  • 4 - 5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until plump or fresh mushrooms - see note
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • vegetable oil for stir frying
  • salt and pepper

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
  • Egg garnish jidan - optional

Instructions

  • Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well until the sugar is dissolved.
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  • Cut the carrot into match sticks. Thinly slice the onion. Cut the scallions into similar lengths.
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  • Cut the beef into thin 2-inch long strips and mix with 1 tablespoon of the sauce. Cut the stems off the mushrooms, and slice into 1/4-inch thin strips. Season with 1 tablespoon of the sauce.
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  • Blanch the spinach in boiling water only until wilted. Drain quickly and shock in cold water. Squeeze out excess water, cut into about 2-inch lengths, and lightly season with salt and pepper.
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  • Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the noodles according to the package directions (usually 6 - 7 minutes). Rinse in cold water and drain. Cut the noodles with kitchen shears or a knife into 6 -7 inch lengths. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the prepared sauce in a large bowl.
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  • In a large non-stick skillet, stir fry the noodles over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent and a bit sticky (about 4 minutes). Transfer back to the bowl.
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  • Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan, and stir fry the onion until translucent over medium high heat, lightly sprinkling with salt and pepper. When the onion is almost done, stir-in the scallion and cook briefly. Transfer to the bowl with the noodles. Stir fry the carrot for 1 to 2 minutes until softened. (Do not overcook. The vegetables should be crisp.) Transfer to the bowl.
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  • Stir fry the beef and mushrooms together until the meat is cooked through, 2 - 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl.
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  • Add the spinach and the remaining sauce to the bowl with all other prepared ingredients.
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  • Toss well by hand. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding a little more (start with 1/2 teaspoon) soy sauce and/or sugar as necessary.
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Notes

Dried shiitake is ideal for its concentrated flavor and meatier texture, but you can use any kind of fresh/dried mushrooms such as oyster or button mushrooms.
Leftover japchae should be kept refrigerated. Japchae reheats well in the microwave. The noodles will get soft and chewy again.
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