Korean sweet potato noodles, known best in Japchae noodles, are magic. They manage to be gluten free yet not taste like sadness or cardboard. Their texture is slippery and chewy, they absorb flavorful sauces every bit as well as wheat varieties, and I could eat them every single day. Have I mentioned I love noodles? My Mushroom Japchae noodles are easy to prepare and universally loved. They make an excellent choice for Meatless Mondays. They sneak in a lot of veggies, and picky eaters will be so focused on the delicious noodles and sauce, they won’t even notice!
Let’s Get Cooking!
An Easier Way to Prepare Japchae
The actual translation of Japchae is ‘mixed vegetables’. But it has become synonymous with the sweet potato noodles used in the dish. One of the biggest differences you might notice in Japchae noodles is the preparation at home versus in a restaurant. Traditionally, the ingredients are chopped up and stir-fried one at a time, the noodles are boiled, and then everything gets tossed together with seasonings and sauce. This is a great way for home cooks to make huge bowls of Japchae, which are frequently served at room temperature at parties and get togethers.
Alternatively, at restaurants, the dish is more of a stir-fry. The vegetables, protein, noodles, and sauce are all stir-fried in a large pan. Both methods have their pros and cons. I find that it can be difficult at home to make a stir-fried noodle dish for several people if you do not have a large enough pan, but at the same time, cooking each vegetable separately can get a little tiresome.
While debating which method to write about, I remembered a technique that one of my favorite Korean home cooks used. If you’re a Korean food lover, you should definitely check out Maangchi’s food blog! Her infectious spirit and love of her native food is contagious. So thanks Maangchi! Her method of layering ingredients into a large heavy pot and cooking it so everything steam-fries is ingenious and it works really well.
So what are you waiting for?
First the Noodles
When you take the sweet potato noodles out of their packaging, you’ll notice how wiry and stiff they are. But once you give them a short soak in warm water, they become recipe ready. Japchae noodles are really long though, so I typically cut them into more manageable strands.
Shiitakes, Cremini, and Enoki, Oh My!
While the noodles are softening, I prep the vegetables. And that means washing and slicing lots of mushrooms. At the restaurants, we often use mushrooms in vegetarian dishes because they mimic the texture and savory flavor you find in meat. And this Japchae has been popular with both vegetarian and non-vegetarians. The mushrooms give the dish a depth, you probably won’t miss the meat. Nonetheless, you could swap out some of the mushrooms for some beef to satisfy your inner carnivore as beef and mushrooms are a classic pairing- just saying.
I like to use a variety of mushrooms for a deep mushroom flavor and a fun presentation- the more the merrier! Shiitakes, creminis, enoki, trumpets–whatever you can get your hands on and looks good at the market. The shiitakes needs to be stemmed, and they get sliced with the cremini. For the enoki and trumpet mushrooms, remove the roots at the base (enokis are packaged with a growing medium you really don’t want to eat), and separate into small clusters. Finally, cut any of the larger trumpets into manageable pieces.
After the mushrooms are prepped, I cut the zucchini, onion, and the scallions. For the zucchini, after washing and removing both ends, I slice it crosswise into 3 pieces. Then I cut those into half inch slices, and then matchstick them.
The scallions get cut into one inch pieces. I separate the light green and white part from the dark green ones. The dark green ones get used at the end of so they retain some of their bite.
Now It All Comes Together:
Prepping the vegetables is definitely the longest part of making Mushroom Japchae Noodles. The actual cooking portion is very quick. First mix up all the sauce ingredients. Then you layer the ingredients in a heavy bottom pan. The mushrooms (except for the enoki) and onions go on the bottom, then the noodles, then the sauce, and then the zucchini. Finally the pale part of the scallions go on top. Then cover the pot, and cook for 10 minutes.
When the 10 minutes are up, add the spinach, enoki, and remaining scallions. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if needed. Give it all a good stir, cook for a couple more minutes to evaporate any residual liquid at the bottom, and your Mushroom Japchae Noodles are ready to be devoured! In my opinion, the sesame seed garnish is NOT optional. Those little seeds add great texture and nutty flavor. Make sure you buy the ones that are already toasted.
Let us know if you make our Mushroom Japchae Noodles. Leave a comment, and tag us @funkyasiankitchen, show us the goods!Print
- 12 oz dry sweet potato noodles
- 12 oz shiitake mushrooms
- 10 oz cremini mushrooms
- 1 large onion, cut in half, peeled, and sliced ¼ inch thick
- one large zucchini
- 1 package enoki mushrooms
- 3 oz baby spinach (1/2 bag)
- 1 bunch scallions
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- ¼ cup water
- 5 cloves large garlic, minced
- ¼ cup soy sauce*
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
- 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Soak the noodles:
- In a large bowl of tap water, soak the noodles until soft, about 40 mins.
- Drain, cut into manageable lengths about 8 inches long with kitchen scissors, and set aside.
Prep the veggies:
- Brush the dirt off of the mushrooms with a clean cloth. Stem the shiitake mushrooms and then cut both mushrooms into thick 1/2 inch slices. Set aside.
- Open the package of enoki mushrooms and cut off the growing medium at the base (about 1 inch should do it). Using your hands, gently break the enoki apart at the base into separate little clumps. Set aside.
- Wash the zucchini well and cut off the stem end. Cut the zucchini into thirds crosswise and then in 1/2 lengthwise. Then cut the zucchini into 1/2 inch wedges.
- Wash and trim the scallions. Then cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside the light green and white portions for cooking and save the other half of mostly dark green top portions for the end as a garnish. If the white scallion bulbs are very thick, go ahead and cut them in half.
Cooking Wild Mushroom Japchae Noodles:
- Mix all the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
- Using a 6-7 quart dutch oven or a comparable heavy bottom pot, put the onion and mushrooms at the bottom of the pot and toss with the oil and water. Layer the noodles next and pour the sauce evenly over the top of the noodles. Next put the zucchini on top of the noodles. Finally add half of the scallions (the thick white and light green parts).
- Place the pot on the stove, cover with a lid, and set to medium heat. Cook for 20 mins undisturbed. Take off the lid and scatter the spinach, enoki mushrooms, and remaining green scallions on top. Toss the noodles to try and mix all of the ingredients together. Continue cooking for another couple of minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the spinach has wilted.
- Taste for seasoning. Add a little more salt, black pepper, or sesame oil if needed. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve hot.
* If you want a completely gluten free dish, make sure to use a soy sauce that is gluten free.
* I know this seems like a lot of salt, but there is also a hefty amount of vegetable in this dish which gives off a lot of water and dilutes the flavor. Feel free to only add the soy sauce to the sauce and season to taste with salt once your noodles are cooked, if you are watching your salt intake.