Jap Chae

A healthy, vegetarian/vegan, mouth-watering meal that’s easy to make? Not only easy to make, but speedy – so speedy, in fact, that it takes less time to make (from start to sitting down, slurping noodles) than it takes to heat up the oven and bake a frozen pizza? Do I have your attention yet? Because yes, it’s possible. Meet my favorite throw-together dish – Jap Chae.

What is Jap Chae? Well, I didn’t know for the longest time. Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen introduced me to Jap Chae. (say it with me: chop-chay.) Also spelled Jab Chae or Chap Chae, this is a Korean dish comprised traditionally of sweet potato (cellophane) noodles, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, and onions. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of Korean food, honestly. I do know, however, that my limited exposure has taught me to love Korean food! What makes this dish unique, in my opinion, are the noodles. If you happen to have an Asian grocery nearby, I encourage you to visit. Check out the noodles. Yes, it might be overwhelming – there are a LOT of noodles. For this particular dish, seek out some slightly gray-brown noodles called “glass noodles” or “cellophane noodles.” (They’re gluten-free, of course.) If you read the ingredients on the package, it’ll likely just read: sweet potato starch, water (and maybe salt). That’s it. Sounds simple enough, right? These noodles don’t taste anything like sweet potatoes – but their texture is addictive. They’re super-springy, light, and I love they way they absorb the sweet soy-sesame sauce in the jap chae. They never get soggy, either, making this dish perfect for leftovers!

I did take some liberties with the recipe (if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know this is nothing new). I added snow peas and red bell pepper (they were in the fridge), and I subbed agave nectar for the sugar. And as always, I used gluten-free soy sauce instead of regular soy. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. (Oh – I did add a squirt of Sriracha to my bowl. Not authentic, I know, but I can’t resist a little heat with my salty-sweet-umami dishes!) This little throw-together dish is heaven in my book. The shitake mushrooms provide a huge burst of umami flavor, and I cannot resist sesame – sesame can cause me to swoon! And as I mentioned before, the noodles, with their springy texture, are such a joy to eat. It doesn’t hurt to know that this is a healthy, veggie-packed meal, either!

By the way, I’m not kidding about the speediness thing. The other day, my husband wanted a frozen pizza (Totino’s, so it doesn’t even take that long in the oven!), and I decided to make this dish (John’s not much for mushrooms, spinach, or Asian cuisine). He turned the oven on to preheat at the same time I was gathering ingredients. My jap chae was finished, in a bowl, and I had just started to dig in when the timer went off, telling him that his pizza was ready. Speedy dish indeed!

Jap Chae, adapted from Steamy Kitchen

1/2 lb dried Korean sweet potato noodles or mung bean thread

2 1/2 t sesame oil, divided

1 T canola oil

3/4 c thinly sliced onions

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks (I use my handy-dandy julienne peeler for this task)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 t grated fresh ginger

2 stalks green onions, cut into 1 inch lengths

1/2 c dried shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced and rehydrated in warm water

1/2 c snow peas

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 lb spinach leaves, washed well and drained

2 T gluten-free soy sauce

1 T agave nectar

1 T sesame seeds

Fill a large pot with water and boil. When water is boiling, add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse with cool water. Drain again and toss with 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Cut noodles into shorter pieces (I took Jaden’s advice and used kitchen shears for this task), about 8 inches in length. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix soy sauce and agave nectar together. Add canola oil in a wok or large saute pan on high heat. Swirl to coat pan. When oil is hot but not smoking, fry onions and carrots until softened, about 1 minute. Add garlic, green onions, and mushrooms, and cook for 30 seconds. Then add snow peas, bell pepper, spinach, soy sauce mixture, and the noodles. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted and snow peas are a bit tender. Turn off heat, toss with sesame seeds and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.

Serves 3-4. Or 2-3, if feeding hungry people. Wonderful eaten hot or cold.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh does this really look like a perfect dinner treat. Have you tried toasted sesame seeds or the black sesame seeds? I love the smell of sesame oil as it heats up in the pan and would add a little to the other oil, Canola in this case to impart a bit of the sesame flavor during the onion and carrot saute.

    Regards,
    CCR
    =:~)

  2. says

    Yum!!! I am going to look for those noodles. Sweet potatoes are so much healthier than white rice noodles and mung beans are supposed to be really good for you, too. I’m with you on the ‘wonderful hot or cold’ – sometimes I can’t resist leftovers for breakfast right out of the fridge.

  3. says

    I love stuff like this! I am with you – I always love to put a little heat it. Have you tried sesame oil that’s been infused with hot chili? You would love it I’ll bet!

  4. says

    I never knew that glass noodles were made with sweet potato flour, I learned something new today! This dish however looks great, I love Korean food too and so does the hubby so when I get a chance to find some of these noodles I’ll have to keep this recipe in mind :D

  5. lvegas says

    I’m a big fan of Korean food and this looks yummy. A bowl of this and a little kimchee and I’d be in heaven!

  6. says

    MMm. Haven’t made much in the way of Korean food at home, but I’m definitely a fan. And noodle bowls are some of my favorites.

    I also didn’t know that cellophane noodles were made from sweet potato starch! How fascinating! Will definitely be checking for these on my next trip to the Asian market.

  7. says

    Nicely done. I really want to get a copy of Jaden’s cookbook. She’s definitely got some really great recipes. I think it time to add a noodle night to the dinner menu for this week. ;-D

  8. says

    Personally, I love Asian food of any kind! This looks like a winning combination! I did not know about sweet potato noodles but will have to look next time I get to Chinatown. Thanks for this recipe.

  9. says

    This sounds fantastic, and I love that you beat the frozen pizza! I’ve never cooked with cellophane noodles, but I love them and need to search them out at the Asian grocery store. I had no idea they were made with sweet potatoes – how cool!

  10. says

    Alta, I had no idea the glass noodles were made from sweet potatoes … how cool! You’re right about the number of noodles in the Asian stores. I’ve looked before and been intimidated. (I go to the Asian market to pick up finely ground rice flour, coconut milk, some veggies, etc.) Great-looking dish and to be that speedy–nice! I also like that it’s a dish that’s great hot or cold.

    Thanks so much,

    Shirley

    • tastyeatsathome says

      AmandaonMaui – I LOVE that Mark Bittman book! I practically learned how to cook from it. Must have skipped past the Chop Chae all those years ago – now I have to go back and check it out again!

      Tasty Trix – haven’t seen chili-infused sesame oil. DEFINITELY need to check that out!

      CCR – I love toasted sesame seeds – and black ones too! I don’t normally cook with sesame oil in the frying step, because the sesame oils I have are low-medium heat only. If I can find a more refined sesame oil, I’d certainly give it a try though!

      TasteHongKong, diva, MaryMoh, Natasha, Lauren, Shirley, Janice, Leslie, Conor, pegasuslegend, Katie, Danielle, jenn, SimplyLife, Lisaiscooking, lo, lvegas, Rochelle, Angie, Emily, Amy, Stacy, Cristie, Noelle, Teanna, MyMansBelly, and The Chickenless Chick – Thank you so much!

  11. says

    Yum, I haven’t had jap chae in ages — I also love those sweet potato noodles for all those same reasons! Been on an Asian food kick lately, so I may have to make up a batch of this soon!!

  12. says

    Alta I LOOOOOOVE Jap Chae!!!!!!! Beautiful picture btw, it instantly made my mouth water…and then my tummy grumbly :( You are right, the shiitake mushrooms are such an integral part to this dish, I love the texture of the vegetables with the chewiness of the noodles and that sweet soy based sauce that brings it all together — beautiful post!

  13. says

    OMG! I’ve been wanting to make this. You’re making me hungry right now! Thanks for the recipe. Will make it for my hubby this week. We love Korean food!

  14. amanda williams says

    I must say, last January, you posted this and we tried it! It is one of our favorites! As i sit here tonight making out my January menu, the first for 2011, I was reminded by your review post to get this one on there right away! :) THANK YOU so much for sharing this…it is one of our favorites! :)

    Love, Amanda

  15. Ann says

    the japchae i’ve always had (i’m korean) always contained beef. frankly, i think it does taste better with beef or a meat substitute, such as seitan. addicted to seitan btw…^__^

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