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Beef Japchae

Beef Japchae
K

I don’t like to abuse the phrase “game changer”, but sometimes its use is warranted. And this Beef Japchae recipe is one of those times. Japchae is as ubiquitous in Korea as mac and cheese is in the states but it’s more versatile. Although it’s often a side dish served with Kalbi and Bulgogi, it’s also eaten as a snack at room temperature, served as street food as I had on my recent trip to Seoul, and picked up at grocery stores to make a quick meal on the go.

The noodles are made from sweet potato starch so they are gluten free, but they are a fun gluten free-meaning they are traditionally this way, not manipulated to be gluten free and ending up as a pale imitation. They have a delightfully springy texture and absorb sauces beautifully. Making Japchae noodles often involves boiling the noodles separately while stir frying the meat and other ingredients. Each ingredients gets stir fried individually and then the noodles are drained and added to the wok. I’ve also seen variations where everything is tossed together like a giant salad once the individual components are cooked.

Nothing wrong with that process, but it is a bit time consuming, requiring many steps, and the main reason why I made Japchae at home infrequently. Like everyone else, cooking time was a luxury during the week with everything else going on. But then I saw a different process years ago on one of my favorite food blogs, Maangchi, and tried it for myself when I developed my Mushroom Japchae recipe. And it works beautifully. This Beef Japchae is made by layering the noodles and veggies in a heavy pot, and cooking it on medium heat for 20 mins. It’s literally a “set it and forget it” scenario. Game Changer!

You need this (almost) one pot wonder filled with a tangle of noodles, veggies, and tender beef in your life, so let’s get into it.

ingredients for beef japchae

I start making Beef Japchae by soaking the sweet potato noodles. They need to soak about a half hour, until they are pliant. This gives me plenty of time to get everything else prepped and ready to go, starting with marinating the beef. I use a thinly shaved beef, like the kind you’d use for a Philly cheesesteak. I’ve been seeing this available more and more at grocery stores. You can of course slice the meat thinly yourself. Make sure to place the meat in the freezer for about an hour to make it easier. I like a marbled beef for better flavor and tender texture, like a rib eye but you can choose whatever is your favorite cut.

beef soy

 

marinated beef

I set the beef aside to marinate and get started prepping the veggies.

carrots japchae

onion red pepper beef

I cut the scallions into 2 inch lengths:

When all the vegetables are chopped, it is time to start layering everything in the pot. I cannot stress this enough, but the key to this dish is using a heavy bottom pot with a tight heavy lid. I used my dutch oven which has a 7 quart capacity. You can weigh the lid down with a large can or something else as needed. If your lid bounces around while the noodles cook, you may lose moisture too quickly, drying out the pan and leaving you with only partially cooked noodles.

noodles japchae

Now it’s time to mix the sauce ingredients and add them to the pot.

adding sauce japchae

While the noodles cook, it’s time to quickly stir fry the beef. Make sure the pan is good and hot before adding the oil so the beef doesn’t stick and will caramelize. Let it cook for a minute without touching it. Again this is to try and get some caramelization. Stirring it around immediately in a cool pan will give you soggy steamed meat.

I cook the meat separately because I like my beef caramelized with a touch of pink- soft and juicy. I know you’re asking yourself, why can’t I just add the beef on top of the noodles and call it a day? Are you not encouraging us to make lazy/smart Japchae? Oh wise one, you can and save yourself a step and some dishwashing. However, some steps are important and I would advise that this is one of them. Otherwise, the beef which will be steaming for about 10 minutes, will be grey and probably a little overcooked.

But if that’s not enough to dissuade you, then do yourself a favor and choose a tender, well marbled cut and take a couple minutes to separate the beef as best you can as you lay it on top of the uncooked noodles (if the beef cooks as a giant clump, you will not be able to separate it later). Then cover the pot with the lid and proceed with cooking the same way.

str fry beef

spinach japchae

I have tried this dish many times and several of my family and friends have also tried it with great results. The key is to use a heavy pot, like a dutch oven that has a tight heavy lid. Once 20 minutes are up, take off the lid and taste a noodle. It should be chewy and full cooked. If it still has a small core, replace the lid and cook for another 5 minutes, adding a couple tablespoons of water if the pan is dry. However, if the noodles are cooked after 20 minutes but you still see a lot of liquid in the pot, raise the heat to medium high for a couple minutes to cook off some of the excess liquid. This dish should not be overly saucy.

Once your Japchae is ready, transfer it to a platter and garnish with some toasted sesame seeds.

I hope you love this streamlined version of Beef Japchae! Please take a moment to rate and comment on the recipe and let me know what you think. And don’t forget to tag us in your glorious dinner pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!

If this Beef Japchae reminds you how much you love Korean food check out some of our other popular recipes like Watermelon Soju, Spicy Bean Sprouts, and Gochujang Meatloaf.

 

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Beef Japchae

  • Author: Funky Asian Kitchen
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes + 30 minute soak
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: entrees
  • Cuisine: Korean

Ingredients

Scale
  • 6 ounces sweet potato noodles, soaked in water for 30 mins or until pliant
  • 1 large onion, trimmed, halved, and sliced thin 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 pack shimeji mushrooms about 3.5 ounces (or 4 ounces of any other mushroom)
  • 2 handfuls of spinach (about 1.5 ounces)
  • 3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup neutral oil
  • 1 Tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

Marinated Beef:

  • ½ pound thin sliced beef (I used a philly steak-style sliced rib eye)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • A couple grinds/dashes ground black pepper

Sauce:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Marinate the beef:

  1. Place the beef, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, black pepper, and sesame oil into a bowl and mix the beef so that it is well coated.
  2. Set aside.

Make the sauce:

  1. Put all of the sauce ingredients into a bowl or cup and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Set aside.

Make the Japchae:

  1. Place the sliced onion, carrot, and bell pepper in the bottom of a large heavy bottom pot. Add the water and oil and toss so the vegetables are evenly coated. 
  2. Drain the noodles and cut them into manageable lengths (the length of spaghetti) with a pair of kitchen scissors. Place the noodles in an even layer over the vegetables. 
  3. Pour the sauce evenly over the noodles trying to cover as much of the noodles as possible.
  4. Cover the pot and set it on the stove. Turn the heat to medium and set the timer for 20 minutes. Let the noodles cook undisturbed while you cook the beef.
  5. Heat a medium pan over medium high heat for several minutes. Add the oil and swirl to cover the pan and add the beef in a thin layer.
  6. Cook the beef without touching it for 1 minute and then use chopsticks or tongs to stir fry it for another minute. It should still be a little red and undercooked.
  7. When 20 minutes have passed, remove the lid. Check that the noodles have cooked through. They should be chewy and bouncy but not unpleasantly firm or hard. (If the noodles taste undercooked, place the lid again and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of water if the pot looks dry.)
  8. There may still be some liquid in the pan. If there is, raise the heat to medium high and cook off some of the liquid as you stir the noodles to incorporate the vegetables.
  9. Taste again and adjust seasoning with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, or pepper as needed.
  10. Add the beef and continue mixing for another minute. Add the sesame oil, scallions, and spinach and cook for another minute until they have wilted. 
  11. Transfer the noodles to a serving dish, garnish with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

Notes

*Japchae is delicious hot, warm, or room temperature, which makes them great for a potluck or barbecue. You can refrigerate any leftovers for several days. Reheat on medium low for several minutes in a covered pan, stirring a couple times. Once the noodles are a clear color again, they are done. You can also reheat in a microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes. Heat in 1 minute bursts, stirring in between.

*Use gluten free soy sauce to make the dish fully gluten free.

*If you do not have the exact vegetables mentioned, you can substitute. Kale, snap peas, and zucchini all make good substituttions. Some vegetables, like mushrooms and zucchini are very water logged, so you may have a lot of water remaining in the pot after the noodles have finished cooking. Just raise the heat to medium high and cook it off for a couple minutes.

Keywords: beef japchae, korean, one pot, mushrooms


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