I taught English in Korea a few years ago, and teachers and students alike would always go back for second helpings when the school cook served japchae. Japchae, or Korean stir-fry, has a sweet potato noodle (dangmyeon) base and is dairy-free, making it a Paleo win. I’ve tweaked the sauce to include coconut aminos rather than soy sauce.
Sweet potato noodles are only sweet potato starch—no other ingredients—so they’re safe for most diets unless you have major starch restrictions. Here’s what they look like dry vs. cooked:
I’m usually disappointed with Korean food in American restaurants, as it’s either way too expensive or doesn’t match the amazing flavors I remember. However, I’m proud to say that I’ve finally developed a satisfying recreation of the japchae I had in Korea.
You can buy sweet potato noodles and Korean red pepper flakes (called gochugaru, normally used for kimchi) at Asian markets. I don’t recommend substitutions with other kinds of noodles or pepper. An extra trip to the Asia mart will be well worth the effort!
Japchae (Korean Stir-Fry)
- ½ cup coconut aminos
- 1 Tbsp. Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru, available at Asian markets)
- 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
- ½ tsp. coconut sugar
- 1 tsp. salt (+more to taste)
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1 lb. pork chops
- 7 oz. sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon, available at Asian markets)
- 7 large carrots
- 2 cups white mushrooms
- 1 red bell pepper
- 5 cloves garlic
- 4 cups fresh spinach packed
- 2 green onions
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- In a bowl, mix together coconut aminos, salt, sugar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- Heat a small frying pan with 1 tsp. sesame oil.
- In a small bowl, scramble the egg. Pour into pan and spread it around like a thin crepe.
- Cook egg 1 minute, then carefully flip and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from pan, then use scissors to cut into thin slices. Set aside.
- Cut pork into thin slices. Sauté with 1 Tbsp. oil and a pinch of salt in a wok or large frying pan for 10-15 minutes or until no longer pink in center. Remove from wok/pan and set aside.
- While pork is cooking, bring half a pot of water to a boil.
- Add sweet potato noodles to the boiling water, stir, and cook 15-20 minutes, or until soft. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Because the noodles are so long, you may want to cut the mass with scissors a few times.
- Cut carrots into matchsticks and set aside.
- Cut bell pepper, mushrooms and green onion into thin slices and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat.
- Add carrots, bell pepper and mushrooms and cook until just beginning to soften.
- Crush garlic over veggies in the wok.
- Add pork, spinach, noodles and sauce. Mix well, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook another 3 minutes.
- Serve finished japchae garnished with egg slices, green onion, toasted sesame seeds, and more red pepper flakes if desired.