Chapchae/japchae – korean noodles

Chapchae is like noodle crack!

You know how they say when eating chinese food you’re back to hungry an hour later? Same goes for this dish. If it’s made for lunch I can spend the rest of the afternoon returning again and again to the pot that this was cooked in, head bent over the stove, chopsticks at the ready and devouring greedy mouthfuls between household chores. It’s like noodle crack.

Spaghetti di fecola di patata dolceThere are as many versions to making this as there are chapchae addicts, so this is another non-recipe where I use what’s in season with the essential soy sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper and sesame oil. The noodles are different from the bean thread type as they have a gray color and are said to be chewier. To prepare them, cook in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, rinse until cool, drain again and evenly coat with sesame oil. Snip into shorter pieces by lifting up clumps at random and cutting with kitchen shears. I used half of this package (400g). The rest of the ingredients are spelled out below and I’ve used korean spam instead of the usual beef. To tell the truth, I couldn’t even tell that it was spam after the seasoning went in.

Chapchae ingredients

Saute spam, sliced onions and garlic in sesame oil until onions are soft. Add the asparagus, carrots, 2 tbsp dark or regular soy sauce, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp water. Stir and cook until vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add bamboo shoots and green onions; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the noodles, breaking up the clumps as necessary and mix with the vegetables. I’ve seen an example of a cook using plastic disposable gloves to mix the noodles in more evenly (turn off the heat and don’t burn yourself) and it works! Finish the dish with a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds and thinly sliced hot chile peppers if you like the heat. I’ve also seen sliced strips of scrambled eggs as a garnish.



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