How to Cook JapChae for Your Oppas (or Noonas)

Let me start this off by forewarning that this is not truly traditional JapChae, rather adaptations of the recipe. I also omitted a few things (spinach because I didn't feel like blanching it, and mushrooms because I don't like them), but I am going to provide links to the recipes that include those and simply blog about what I made tonight.

I originally had the craving to make this after watching City Hunter, and I made it with only beef and no veggies. I liked it, but the recipe I first used was loaded with pepper and it was too zippy tasting to me, so I didn't care for it. I decided to give it another try and use a different recipe.

JapChae, if you don't know, calls for noodles made from sweet potato starch. These are the coolest noodles on the face of the Earth, because they turn clear once they're cooked.


How freaking cool are those? They're a little chewy in texture, so don't think you overcooked them. At your local Asian market, you'll want to look for a bag like this. At mine, there is literally two aisles dedicated to various types of noodles from all over Asia. It took me and the two Korean girls who worked there ten minutes to find this bag. I was looking for something that said "SWEET POTATO NOODLES" all over it, not a teeny, tiny font in the top corner.


Okay, so this is essentially what I used. After mixing everything together, I realized there was definitely a lack of carrots in this dish, but lesson learned for next time.


You'll need:
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 stalk of scallion (or green onion)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • Beef (I used a cut of top round steak, but you can use whatever you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • dash of teriyaki 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1 package of sweet potato noodles
First thing first ... wash your hands!

Cut the beef into thick strips, which you will then cut into three smaller strips, then cut those strips in half. Make sense? I didn't think it would, that's why I took a picture of my method.


Left: thick strip turned onto the wide-side of the cut. Middle: three smaller strips, but still long. Right: the smaller strips cut in half to form bite-size pieces, which makes it easier to pick up with chopsticks.

Chop the onion in half (and of course remove outer lining/peel), and place flat bottom of onion on cutting board. With a sharp knife, CAREFULLY slice the onion into small slices. Once it is sliced, with your fingers, pull apart the layers. You'll see they'll come apart very easily and you'll have thin strips that will be able to be picked up by chopsticks. Chop the carrots into thin strips as well. Figure out a best method to do that for yourself, because honestly, I hate cutting carrots into thin strips! Chop the scallion stalk into pieces, it doesn't necessarily have to be strips. Mince the garlic using a garlic press.

Right now is when you should add water to a large pot to begin boiling. It will take a little bit, so while you're waiting for that, you can start cooking the meat.


In a large skillet, use a non-stick spray to coat the pan before using a tiny bit (and I mean about two to three small drizzles) of sesame oil and about 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the beef, sprinkle with a bit of pepper and salt for seasoning, and let brown. Drain any excess liquid once the beef starts to brown (removing the excess liquid will help the beef actually BROWN). Before removing from the pan, drizzle a tiny bit of teriyaki over the beef and let it cook until evaporated (this is totally my addition, as I thought it didn't have much flavor on it's own, and plus I put teriyaki on pretty much everything). Remove from pan and place in a separate bowl.

If the bottom of your pan has some brown crispy beef bits stuck to it, take a glass of warm water and pour it into the pan while it is still on the burner. Take a metal spatula and scrape the bottom of the pan. (This is called de-glazing the pan. It is super helpful and makes clean up a breeze). Pour liquid down the drain and rinse with water. Dry bottom of pan with a rag in case it gets wet (especially if you have a glass top stove, you don't want it to crack).

In a small pan, add the sesame seeds and place on the smallest burner. Set to low and let them to toast, shaking the pan every so often. You'll know they are ready when you can smell them. Take off the burner and set aside.


Now is about the time the water for the noodles should be boiling, so add the noodles and set your timer for 5 minutes.


Add another tablespoon of canola oil and add the onions, garlic, and carrots. Stir about 2-3 minutes or until onions are slightly clear. Add scallions and stir for another minute. Add beef back into skillet and toss altogether. (Note: Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the onions and carrots when they were sliced before I added them to the skillet. But you can still see what it is supposed to look like and how thin it should be).

The noodles should be ready and your timer going off. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Get your hand in there to really get that cold water through those noodles. With scissors (that you've cleaned!) cut the noodles several times. 

Add the noodles back into the pan and mix thoroughly. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, plus a concoction of 4 tablespoons soy sauce and 2.5 tablespoons of sugar, which is sort of like the sauce for the dish. Serve onto individual plates and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Your end result should look like this:


See what I mean about not enough carrots?

Now, I'm not really an expert at food photography, and I took this with my camera phone, but believe me when I tell you it is amazing and delicious.

If you want to add the spinach and mushrooms, then following the recipe listed here. This website has a bunch of really awesome Asian recipes (try the Egg Roll recipe. It is amazing and the only one I will ever use. I have received so many compliments on "my" egg rolls because of this site!). If you are curious, the first recipe I used that I thought had too much pepper, you can find it here

So if you decide to make it, let me know how it turned out. If you have any questions, just ask! I'm not the world's biggest expert on Korean cooking, and I won't pretend to be. But I do know a little bit about cooking and a few tricks and tips, so ask away!

Now you know what to feed your idol! You know what they say about men and their stomachs ... And for you men out there reading this, give your woman a break and cook dinner for her!



  1. I should try to make this one day. It looks really tasty! Thanks for sharing the recipe. :D

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