Every time I think of Korean cooking I get excited because I think I have a good excuse to use liberal amounts of gochujang. I must admit that I was kinda sad when I realised that Japchae calls for none of it. I guess I’ll have to get my gochujang fix another day; probably by smothering these dangmyeon noodles with gochujang.
Dangmyeon noodles 당면 (the ones in this recipe) are made with sweet potato and are especially great for those with celiac disease or those who are/or think they are sensitive to gluten and I guess would it would also be appreciated by those in the Paleo Diet Movement. For the rest of us mere mortals, these noodles are also great.
Originally, Japchae is made with beef but I decided to change to chicken because a) it’s cheaper and b) it’s what I had in the fridge. You can omit the meat altogether and make this a vegan dish by marinating just the shiitake mushrooms in the first step. Also, you can add as many vegetables as you like but again I just used what was in my fridge; feel free to get creative and go wild.
This recipe calls for jidan (지단) which is a very popular type of garnish used in Korean cooking. Separating the yolk and white and making two different coloured (yellow and white) garnishes has the added bonus of harmonising Obangsaek (오방색) which is important in Korean culture. Obangsaek is the traditional Korean colour spectrum and is applied to all elements of traditional Korean elements such as clothing, symbols, architecture and of course, food. The colours (blue, red, yellow, white, black) represent five cardinal directions (east, south, centre, west, north) and five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water). Obangsaek in cooking is thought to ensure a physically and spiritually nutritious meal for all the five vital organs in the body and keeping life in the balance. Green (a combination of blue and yellow) is often substituted for blue as blue is not present naturally in many foods.
200g Dangmyeon noodles (Korean Sweet Potato noodles)
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized strips (can substitute for beef or completely omit)
8 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and cut into strips
2 garlic cloves
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, julienned
1 Marinade chicken and shiitake mushrooms with 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1 Tbsp. sugar, freshly ground black pepper, 1 minced garlic clove. Mix well and refrigerate until needed. Note: You can make this in advance and marinade the ingredients overnight.
2 Blanch spinach in boiling water for circa 30 seconds. Rinse in cold water and squeeze with hands to remove excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
3 In the same boiling water, add the dangmyeon noodles and cook for 5-7 minutes or until cooked. Make sure you stir every once in a while to prevent them from sticking together. Once cooked, drain and cut with scissors to make the strands slightly shorter. Transfer to the same mixing bowl as the spinach and season with 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Mix well and set aside.
4 Make jidan. Separate yolk and egg whites and beat in separate bowls. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and when hot remove excess with a paper towel. Fry the egg yolk and egg whites separately for a few seconds on each side on a medium-low flame. Leave to cool, roll up and cut into strips.
5 Heat oil in a pan and cook onions to your preference, I like them half cooked. Remove and transfer to the mixing bowl with other ingredients.
6 Fry carrots in the same pan to your preference, again, I like them crunchy. Remove and transfer to the mixing bowl.
7 In the same pan, add some more oil if needed and cook the chicken and shiitake mushrooms until cooked through. Remove and transfer to the mixing bowl.
8 Season the dangmyeon noodles and rest of the ingredients with 1 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1 minced garlic clove and plenty freshly ground black pepper. Mix well and then add the jidan just before serving.