Vegetarian Jap Chae – A Guest Recipe by Alice of Savory Sweet Life

Japchae in a dish
Vegetarian Jap Chae (Korean Glass Noodle Stir-Fry)

[Today's post is by my friend Alice of Savory Sweet Life. Alice's blog is a celebration of everyday cooking and baking. Her food shows that delicious, beautiful, homemade meals are within the reach of busy families. Today she shares with us a vegetarian version of japchae, a Korean glass-noodle stir fry she has enjoyed since she was a child.]

Japchae ingredients When a friend and well respected blogger like Michael Natkin invites you to guest post for his amazing food blog, it’s a big deal and great honor.  When I first started Savory Sweet Life, Herbivoracious.com was one of the first blogs I frequently visited for inspiration, beautiful photos, and amazing vegetarian recipes.  Since then we’ve become friends.   Today, I am thrilled to share with you a vegetarian version of Korean jap chae, a very popular stir-fried noodle dish.

Growing up my mother would often prepare a big pan of jap chae (also spelled japchae or chapchae) full of vegetables with vibrant colors, stir-fried with glass-looking sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon), and seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper, and a touch of sugar.  Although stir-frying everything together is not complicated, its how you stir fry them which makes this dish special.

Stir frying japchaeMy mother taught me the importance of making sure to stir-fry each ingredient individually.  One could easily be tempted to add all the vegetables at once and fry them together.  But by frying them individually, the flavor and color of each vegetable is preserved without any cross blending of the other ingredients.  As a result, the frying pan becomes more seasoned as layers of umami build on each other.  The final dish is a beautiful medley of noodles, colorful vegetables, and tofu. From an aesthetic point of view jap chae is one of the most beautiful dishes in Korean cuisine.  It is also one of my favorite Asian comfort foods.  From our family to yours, enjoy!

Vegetarian Jap Chae

Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce (San-J makes one)
Serves 2-3 as a main dish
Serves 4-6 as a side dish

  • 1 bundle of potato starch cellophane noodles called dangmyeon (most packages contain 2-3 bundles and can be purchased at any Korean grocery store or most Asian markets)
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, julienned
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into match sticks
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 8-10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 stalks green onions, sliced in 1.5” slices (green parts only)
  • ½ block of firm tofu, cut into small rectangle pieces (approx. 1.5”x1”x.25”)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil or Canola oil  (amounts will vary, please see directions)
  • soy sauce  (amounts will vary, please  see directions)
  • sesame oil (amounts will vary, please see directions)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  1. Boil one bundle of noodles for 5 minutes until softened and al dente in texture.  Drain the noodles and do not rinse.  Add noodles to a large mixing bowl and cut them three times with kitchen shears.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons (each) of soy sauce and sesame seed oil.  Toss noodles until sauce is evenly distributed and set aside.  Using the same pot as the noodles, add enough water to boil spinach for 1 minute.  Remove spinach from water and allow to cool just enough to squeeze as much water out as possible.  Cut spinach in thirds, and massage it while seasoning with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Add spinach to the large noodle filled bowl.
  3. Heat a wok or large frying pan on high.  Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and cook sliced onions for 2 minutes stirring them as they start to turn translucent.  Season with a 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Add onions to the large bowl of noodles.  Repeat the same process as the onions except reduce cooking times to 30 seconds for the carrots, 2 minutes for the bell red pepper, 1 minute for the shiitake mushrooms, and 10 seconds for the green onions.  Fry tofu squares for 1 minute per side – but do not add tofu to the large bowl of noodles.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons of sugar, and ½ teaspoon of ground pepper to the large noodle bowl and toss everything until well mixed.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the hot wok and add minced garlic.  Allow garlic to cook for a few seconds and add the entire bowl of mix noodles and vegetables to the wok/pan.  Stir-fry everything for 2-3 minutes and turn off heat.  Gently add tofu and transfer noodles to a large serving platter. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.  Serve warm or cold.  Enjoy!.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, April 12th, 2010 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable, Weblogs.

23 Responses to “Vegetarian Jap Chae – A Guest Recipe by Alice of Savory Sweet Life”

  1. April 12, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Hey Michael,
    Thanks again for inviting me to guest post for you. It’s really an honor!

    • roberta
      February 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      this looks soooo good i cannot wait to try this gonna go shop for ingridients tomorrow

    • March 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      I just made this for dinner and it was AAAAAmazing. It could possibly be my new all-time favorite.I think cooking the veggies separately is a great idea. Flavorful and just so good. Thanks!!

  2. Swarna Mani
    April 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Looks so delicious

  3. April 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    looks amazing
    i’m good with noodle soups, not that much with these kind of noodles thoug :D

  4. April 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    This is probably the first time im commenting here thought I have been following this blog for a long long time. Came here from Alice’s blog. You guys are among my most fav bloggers in Seattle! :)

  5. April 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    This looks really delicious and the flavours are super awesome. Would like to try this soon.

  6. April 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    Aw I love this! It’s one of my favorite noodle dishes and the chewiness of the sweet potato noodles is addictive. Been a long-time fan of Alice and your blogs, so it’s lovely to know you’re pals :).

  7. April 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    Love japchae and always happy when they serve it in those array of panchan. Nice to have a home recipe, definitely.

  8. April 13, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    It looks delicious!!
    nice your blog!

  9. April 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Uh, this look s really nice! Thank you Michael and Alice!

  10. April 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Don’t know what I am doing wrong, but my emails keeps coming up instead of my name…sorry, I’ll try again :-)

  11. Mike Gainer
    April 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    This looks sooo good! I’m not vegan, but I keep coming back and cooking that way. Yummy. Thanks for sharing Alice.

  12. April 14, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    I made this dish yesterday for one on my clients. FANTASTIC! I followed the recipe exactly as written (which I rarely do) as my wok skills are still at a novice level. I really liked the strong technique given here and I actually learned a lot, particularly adding the 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil to each ingredient after cooking. Genius! It makes all the difference. Also loved the note to MASSAGE the cooked spinach, which I thought was a misprint, until I did it!

    I love Michael and now I love you too, Alice!

  13. April 14, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Wow, this looks amazing Michael. Thanks for the recipe, I’m going to hop on over and check out Annie’s blog.

  14. April 15, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks for the tip on cooking the veggies separately. I never knew that!
    The recipe looks delicious, by the way. Thanks!

  15. John
    April 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    This posting was doubly good — it inspired me to try making Jap Chae, which I’ve always liked, and ALSO to look at Alice’s blog, adding several more recipes to my “gotta try that soon” list.

    The Jap Chae was great. I made too many noodles (we had a gang of kids over, so I got a big bag…which turned out not to be divided into “piles”, and I ended up making it all. Probably 3 times as much as I should have, but it worked out fine. When I was buying it, the Asian market also had some lovely baby bok choy; we rinsed them thoroughly, sliced off the very bottom, sliced the white part about 1/4″ thick, and threw the leaves in with the spinach leaves. I then boiled the spinach/boy choy greens for 1 min, and then the white parts of the bok/choy for about 90 seconds. Worked out great!

    My kids helped do the prep, the stir-frying (two pans, since we were doing a double-batch), and, of course, the eating. Big hit with EVERYone.

    My only thought when I was done was that I’m not certain what you meant by “two stalks” of green onions. I figured you meant “two green onions”, and that was OK. But I think I’d have liked it better if it had been two BUNCHES of green onions. (My wife disagrees, though.)

  16. April 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    gorgeous and sounds amazing…

  17. michael
    May 9, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    I like mine with sliced up dubu jorim. Basically tofu pan-fried, then mixed with a sauce of soy, sesame, garlic, chile paste, sugar, scallions, and red pepper powder.

  18. January 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Wow! Looks amazing! I’m planning to make it this week still or at least by the weekend. I can’t wait to try it out – it looks like all the ingredients will blend together well and your photos make it look very appetizing I might add!

  19. October 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    This looks wonderful- and such a great inspiration for me to try making this again. The last time I had it was from a Korean neighbor who made it for me with chicken. It was my first time trying Korean food and I fell in love with the cuisine immediately. Thank you so much for sharing.

  20. Brian
    January 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    I am new to eating vegetarian and this looks so good!! I wonder it anyone has every substituted spaghetti squash for the noodles? Do you think that would work?

    • January 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      I’m not personally a huge fan of spaghetti squash, but if it appeals to you, try it!

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