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Louise Robinson's japchae recipe demonstrates how a little care in preparing your ingredients can go a long way. The sweet potato noodles found in this classic Korean stir-fry dish are becoming increasingly available, and add a delightfully chewy, slippery texture to the finished dish.

First published in 2017

Japchae is my first foray into home-cooked Korean food. Having eaten in some great restaurants, I wanted to create an authentic tasting dish. A little research and recipe testing revealed it was not that daunting, simply a matter of having the right ingredients and treating those ingredients with care.

This recipe may seem like a labour of love, but taking a little time and effort does make a difference to the finished dish. Do not be tempted to throw everything in together. The cooking time for each ingredient varies, so do stir-fry the ingredients separately. If you cannot find fresh shiitake mushrooms, you can use dried shiitake but you will need to soak them for a few hours beforehand. It is definitely worth sourcing the sweet potato noodles or dangmyeon. They can be found easily online or from Asian food stores. The slightly slippery, chewy texture really adds to the dish and although you could substitute other noodles, I am not sure it would be quite the same.




Sirloin steak

  • 150g of sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and sliced into thin strips

Steak marinade

Mushrooms and sweet potato noodles

Mushroom and noodle marinade


Spinach marinade

  • 1/2 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp sesame oil




To begin, place the strips of sirloin in a bowl with the soy sauce, mirin, crushed garlic, sesame oil and a grinding of fresh pepper. Stir and set aside to marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients
Place all of the mushroom and noodle marinade ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Put 2 tablespoons of the mixture in a separate bowl, add the shiitake and white mushroom slices, stir to combine and leave to one side
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the spinach. Blanch for 30 seconds, then remove the spinach with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of iced water to cool it down as quickly as possible. Keep the saucepan of water simmering while you prepare the spinach
Squeeze the spinach with your hands to remove as much water as possible and place the spinach in a bowl with the crushed garlic and sesame oil. Stir to combine and leave to one side
Bring the water that the spinach was cooked in back to the boil and add the noodles. Cook for 1 minute, stir the noodles then cover and simmer for a further 7 minutes. They should be soft and chewy. Drain the noodles in a sieve and rinse under the cold tap to stop them cooking further
Place the drained noodles in a large bowl and cut into them randomly with a pair of kitchen scissors a few times to shorten them. Add the rest of the mushroom and noodle marinade to the noodles, stir to combine and leave to one side
Next, prepare the egg garnish. Place a small frying pan over a low heat, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and swirl it around the pan
Add a pinch of salt to the egg white, lightly whisk with a fork to combine and add to the pan, swirling to create a thin layer. Cook gently for one minute, flip over and cook for a further minute. Transfer to a plate, while you cook the egg yolk
Repeat the same process with the egg yolk and transfer to a plate. Once cool, cut both the cooked egg white and egg yolk into thin strips. Set aside
Place a wok or large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a couple of teaspoons of vegetable oil
Add the spring onions and stir-fry until they are translucent. Transfer to the bowl of noodles
Add another couple of teaspoons of oil to the frying pan, along with the carrots, and stir-fry for a minute. Add the red pepper and stir-fry for another minute before transferring to the noodle bowl
Add another couple of teaspoons of oil and stir-fry the mushrooms for a couple of minutes. Transfer to the noodle bowl
Finally add another 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan and stir-fry the beef for a couple of minutes before adding to the noodle bowl
Stir all of the ingredients in the noodle bowl together and serve topped with the egg strips and a sprinkle of sesame seeds

Louise Robinson is a former fashion accessories designer turned freelance food writer, stylist and photographer now based in the Sussex countryside.

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