Japchae is a Korean dish made from dangmyeon noodles (sweet potato starch noodles) which are also known as “glass noodles” for their translucent appearance.
The recipe below is a vegetarian (vegan actually) version of the recipe in Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking. I’ve not only omitted the meat, but also the wood-ear mushrooms, because Maangchi listed them as optional. Know that you can adapt this recipe in countless ways: with meat or without, with mushrooms or without, with any number of vegetables you like.
The only hard-to-find ingredient here is the dangmyeon. I found a very reasonably priced large bag at the Asian market in Albany, and I would imagine most Asian grocery stores would carrying them. You can also order online: Dangmyeon (Sweet Potato Starch) Noodles.
8 ounces sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon), see notes above
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 – 5 cloves garlic minced
fresh cracked pepper to taste
12 – 16 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced, see notes above
1 large onion, sliced
1 to 2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced, see notes above
4 to 6 scallions cut into 2.5-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt to taste
8 ounces baby spinach
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
hot sauce, such as Sriracha, if you wish
Place the noodles in a large bowl (I use a large pot) and cover with cold water. You may need to weigh the noodles down with a lid. Let stand for 40 minutes.
Make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper.
Assemble the japchae: In a large, wide heavy pot or sauté pan (I use my 5-qt Le Creuset braiser for this), combine the mushrooms, onion, carrot, and scallions. Season with a good pinch of kosher salt. Add the olive oil and 1/4 cup water, and toss with your hands to combine. Pile the spinach on top.
Drain the noodles and, using scissors, cut them into 5- to 6-inch lengths. Place the noodles over the spinach. Give the sauce a stir and drizzle evenly over top.
Cover the pan and set it on the stovetop. Turn heat to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and give everything a stir.
Finish the dish: Add the sesame seeds and sesame oil and stir to combine. Serve immediately with hot sauce on the side if you wish.