Japchae (Stir-Fried Starch Noodles with Beef and Vegetables)

Japchae is a delicious Korean dish made with stir-fried sweet potato noodles, beef, and vegetables like carrots, spinach, and mushrooms, seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil.

Japchae, also spelled as "chapchae," is a popular Korean dish that originated in the Joseon Dynasty. It's a stir-fried noodle dish typically made with sweet potato starch noodles, known as dangmyeon, which are translucent and chewy in texture. The noodles are stir-fried with various vegetables like carrots, spinach, mushrooms, and onions, as well as seasoned beef or sometimes seafood. 

The dish is flavored with a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar, giving it a savory-sweet taste. Japchae is often served as a side dish (banchan) or as a main course, especially during celebrations and special occasions in Korean culture. Its vibrant colors and delicious flavors make it a favorite among both Koreans and foreigners alike.

Korean Cooking

In Korean cooking, I observed that it's typical to cook each ingredient separately. While it may seem time-consuming, the meticulous approach ensures that every component is perfectly cooked and seasoned, avoiding any risk of undercooked or overcooked elements.

Appetizer, Side Dish 
Prep Time: 15minutes minutes
Cook Time: 20minutes minutes
Total Time: 35minutes minutes
Servings: 4


  • 7 ounces of Korean sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon, 당면)
  • 1 medium-sized carrot (approximately 3 ounces)
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized onion, preferably of the sweet variety (about 4 to 5 ounces)
  • 2 scallions
  • 4 ounces of lean and tender beef (such as sirloin, chuck tender, rib eye, etc.)
  • 3 to 4 ounces of fresh shiitake mushrooms (or 4 to 5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until plump) Alternatively, you can use oyster mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, or button mushrooms. Refer to note 1 for more details.
  • 6 ounces of fresh spinach (preferably a bunch of spinach)
  • Cooking oil for stir-frying
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: Jidan (egg garnish)


  • 3.5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (or brown sugar), adjust to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of roasted sesame seeds
  • Black pepper, to taste

How to make japchae?


Japchae, a beloved Korean dish, starts with sweet potato starch noodles, known as dangmyeon. These noodles are a kitchen staple in many Korean households, versatile enough for soups, stews, and of course, japchae. While there are various methods for preparing japchae noodles, I find that presoaking isn't necessary; they cook quickly without it. Boiling for about 8 minutes until soft and elastic yields the best results – these noodles shouldn't be "al dente." After boiling, I rinse them in cold water, drain well, marinate with the prepared sauce, and gently pan-fry for a soft, bouncy texture.
For the meat and vegetables in japchae, I typically opt for lean, tender beef, although pork loin is also a popular choice. The classic vegetable lineup includes carrots, spinach, mushrooms, onions, and scallions, with additional options like chili peppers, bell peppers, garlic chives, and cucumbers. While shiitake and wood ear mushrooms are traditional, oyster mushrooms are also commonly used.

Each ingredient is separately cooked and then combined at the end, resulting in a dish bursting with vibrant colors and flavors. This traditional approach adds a special touch to japchae. Although I've streamlined the process by cooking some ingredients together, it's crucial not to overcook the vegetables; they should retain a slight crunch or "al dente" texture to complement the soft noodles perfectly.


Creating the authentic flavor of japchae hinges on achieving the perfect harmony between soy sauce and sugar. This recipe ensures that delicate balance, but feel free to tweak the sauce proportions to your taste. To streamline cooking, I prepare a bowl of sauce beforehand, opting for brown sugar when available for added color and depth of flavor.


  1. Begin by thoroughly cleaning all the ingredients. Cut the carrot into matchstick-sized pieces. Slice the onion thinly. If the scallions have thick white parts, slice them lengthwise and then cut them into approximately 2-inch long pieces. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and slice them into thin strips about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the meat into thin strips, roughly 2 inches in length.

  2. In a small bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.

  3. Bring about 5 cups of water to a boil in a large non-stick pan. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until they become completely translucent and soft, usually taking about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the cooked noodles in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. Once drained well, cut the noodles into lengths of about 6 to 7 inches using kitchen shears or a knife. Transfer the noodles to a large mixing bowl and toss them with 3 tablespoons of the prepared sauce.

  4. Using the same pan, fill it with 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Quickly blanch the spinach until it wilts, then drain it swiftly and shock it in cold water. Squeeze out excess water, chop the spinach a few times with a knife, and lightly season it with salt.

  5. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in the skillet and stir-fry the noodles over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until they become translucent and slightly sticky, about 4 minutes. Transfer the noodles back to the mixing bowl.

  6. Add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan and stir-fry the carrot over medium-high heat, sprinkling with a pinch of salt. When the carrot sticks are halfway cooked, push them to one side of the pan to make room for the onion slices. Stir-fry the onion slices until translucent, also sprinkling with a pinch of salt. Stir in the scallions and cook briefly, ensuring not to overcook. The vegetables should remain crisp. Transfer everything to the bowl with the noodles.

  7. In the same pan, add the beef and mushrooms along with 2 tablespoons of the prepared sauce. Cook until the meat is thoroughly cooked through, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the cooked beef and mushrooms to the bowl with the noodles.

  8. Finally, add the blanched spinach and the remaining sauce to the bowl containing all the other prepared ingredients. Toss everything together by hand until well combined. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding a little more soy sauce and/or sugar as needed, starting with 1/2 teaspoon increments. Enjoy your delicious japchae!


  • Shiitake and wood ear mushrooms are traditional choices for japchae, offering distinct flavors and textures. Dried shiitake mushrooms provide a concentrated flavor and a meatier texture. However, feel free to experiment with any variety of fresh or dried mushrooms, such as oyster mushrooms or button mushrooms.
  • In this updated recipe, efficiency is maximized by utilizing the same pan for both cooking the noodles and blanching the spinach, as well as for stir-frying the noodles and other ingredients. This streamlines the cooking process and reduces cleanup time.
  • Leftover japchae can be stored in the refrigerator. When reheating, japchae retains its delicious flavors and textures, especially when warmed in the microwave. Note that the noodles may become soft and chewy again upon reheating, which is perfectly normal.
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