I’ve already talked about my love for Korean food, it’s time to show you some of that love in my kitchen. Japchae is a type of Korean noodle made from potato starch, and it is deeelicious. The springy texture of the noodles is the true star of this popular stir fry. Unfortunately, for this exact reason, you can’t really substitute it with anything else (besides, you can’t really call the dish ‘japchae’ if there is no japchae in it). If you live in a part of the world that has an Asian market nearby, you’re sure to find the raw noodles. If you live in Delhi/NCR, see the note for where to find it. If you live elsewhere in India, you’re on your own folks, sorry.
Inspired by a local Korean restaurant, recipe adapted from several sources
Note: I dont usually do the mise-en-place thing, but I do make an exception for stir fry’s like these since they come together so quick. Also, I used a mandolin for the carrots, onions and mushrooms, because it’s infinitely quicker, though you can cut these easily by hand.
300 gm japchae/korean potato starch noodles
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 small onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6-7 mushrooms, sliced (dried and rehydrated wood ear mushrooms are best, I used button because thats what I had)
4 green onions/scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup spinach, chopped, steamed till wilted, and drained
3 tbsp good quality soy sauce (please please don’t use the usual Indian brands for this – they’re all salt and no flavor. Kikkoman is a good brand and easily available; I use an unbranded bottle of the stuff I bought from the Korean shop listed below)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 tsp sesame oil, divided
1 tbsp vegetable oil
optional: about a cup of cooked chicken/pork/beef – whichever you prefer (you can cook it in the wok and set aside before starting with the rest of the recipe)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add noodles and stir them in. Cook for five minutes, drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with 1-2 tsp sesame oil to prevent sticking
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and soy sauce, set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok, add the onions and carrots. Stir and cook till slightly softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic and spring onions. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the spinach, stirring well, and the noodles, soy mixture, meat (if using), and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Stir everything together, stir frying for a minute.
You can serve these noodles hot, warm, at room temperature or even cold. You can also reheat it in a microwave.
Note on the Korean store: The owners of ‘Korea’, the restaurant near North Campus (address: 1612 Outramline Kingsway Camp), have opened up a small store down the road called Mandu Heaven. This is where I buy my kimchi, gochujang, soy sauce, and of course dry japchae. You can also get a bunch of other Korean ingredients, instant noodles and frozen meats here. The name of the store literally means ‘dumpling heaven’, and so of course it also stocks house-made frozen Korean dumplings. It’s a bit of a drive, so I usually go here once in two-three months, eat at the restaurant and stock up on ingredients and lots of house-made kimchi.
Know any other good specialty stores in Delhi, or anywhere in India? Drop a comment, share the goods!