TheKoreanGuide is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

Japchae: What Is It, Taste, and How To Eat?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Korean cuisine has become more popular in recent years due to the health benefits it has, and also how tasty it is. 

One food that’s extremely well-known is japchae. But what is japchae, and how do you eat it?

Japchae is a traditional Korean dish that translates to ‘mixed vegetables’. It’s a savory and sweet dish that contains ingredients such as stir-fried glass noodles, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, chili and bell peppers, garlic chives, and more. 

It can be a vegan dish, but meat can be added to enhance the flavor.

The rest of this article will cover what japchae is in more detail, and how to eat it.

What Japchae Is

In Hangul, japchae is 잡채, and it’s a routine food choice for Koreans. Typically, each ingredient it has is cooked separately, and there are plenty of them to make a list of. 

Vegetables are the main ingredients, but meats such as pork and beef are good additions for protein.

However, there’s more to the story. Going back in time, japchae was first made back in the 17th century. 

It was made by Yi Chung, and it was nicknamed japchae since the dish consisted of stir-fried vegetables and mushrooms. Japchae was first made for King Gwanghaegun’s palace.

As time went on, japchae evolved with the rest of the world. 

What was originally a few vegetables mixed with mushrooms became a highly nutritious meal that incorporates a vast array of foods – including vegan and meat-eater options.

So, if you’re looking for a nutritious meal you can customize with various meats and vegetables, japchae is one to try. It’s very healthy and fills you up. 

This is because of the ingredients used and the amount in which they are used throughout the dish.

The Ingredients Of Japchae

If meat is added, the most common choice is pork loin, but lean, tender beef is another option. Mushrooms are almost always in japchae. 

These mushrooms are either wood ear mushrooms (목이버섯 or mogi beoseot), shiitake (표고버섯 or pyogo beoseot), or oyster mushrooms (느타리버섯 or neutari beoseot).

Here is a list of the ingredients you can make japchae with: Korean starch noodles, carrots, medium onions (the sweeter the better), scallions, lean tender beef or pork loin, mushrooms of your choice like shiitake or oyster, fresh spinach, salt, and an egg garnish (called jidan or 지단)

Seasonings And Sauces

To add to the flavor of japchae, many seasonings and sauces are mixed in. 

Since japchae is savory and sweet, the two main choices of seasonings and sauces are soy sauce and sugar. 

How much you use will depend on the amount of ingredients you’re using.

The more ingredients you have, whether that be in number or in size, the more sauce and seasoning you should add. 

Increase the portions to balance out the rest of the recipe. If you don’t want to use soy sauce, brown sugar is a great flavor enhancer that adds color to the dish.

There’s a few other alternatives you can use for sauces and seasonings. 

You can choose any homemade sauce or seasoning you’d like, but there are recommended sauces like black pepper sauce. For seasonings, you can use sesame seeds and minced garlic.

How To Eat Japchae

The best part about Korean cuisine is how versatile it is. 

Most Korean foods can be added to different soups and stews, served as side dishes, used in main courses, or are the main course entirely. Japchae is no different, and it can be served in many ways.

Japchae is a common main and side dish. There’s also a Korean glass noodle stew, which isn’t the same as japchae, but by using the same ingredients, you’ll get a similar taste. 

Japchae can be served either hot or cold, and it’s great on its own, as a side dish, or in a soup or stew.

Eating Japchae On Its Own

After you make your dish, prepare chopsticks or your preferred utensil and eat it as is. 

When you leave japchae as it is, it provides you with a nutritious, healthy, and delicious meal you can store for later if you have too much.

Japchae is easy to make and is great for those looking to start delving into Korean cuisine. 

It’s a classic dish, and trying it on its own allows you to sample the entire flavor palette without any other dishes getting in the way. 

That’s why you should try it on its own if you ever get the chance.

Eating Japchae As A Side Dish

As a side dish, japchae is a much smaller portion. You won’t need as many ingredients, and be prepared to eat it up quickly. You likely won’t have any leftovers, so don’t worry about needing to store it.

Eating japchae as a side dish gives you the benefit of trying it in a small portion in case you don’t end up liking the combination of ingredients. 

Eating it as a side dish is recommended for those who want to have a large meal, or would like to try a lot of foods all at once.

Eating Japchae In A Soup Or Stew

There are specific soups and stews that include similar ingredients as japchae. 

There’s a Korean glass noodle stew that’s also called dangmyeon, or in Hangul, 당명찌개. 

Although not specifically japchae, it tastes very similar and will give you a good idea of what japchae is.

How To Store Japchae

Japchae will spoil quickly, especially in warm temperatures. The hotter the temp, the quicker it will spoil. In the heat, japchae will spoil in only half a day when left out. 

To preserve it, put the leftover japchae in its own container and put it in the fridge. It will last up to a week.

You can also place the leftovers in the freezer as well. Using a container like a Ziplock bag, put the meal inside the freezer. 

With this method, japchae will last up to three months. Note that the longer it’s inside the freezer, the more the vegetables will lose their crispness and taste.

Lastly, when you take it out to eat again, there are two main ways you can reheat it. 

One is using the microwave and reheating the dish for 45 to 60 seconds, and the second is putting the leftovers in a skillet and heating for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring continuously.

When using the microwave, add 15 seconds more if the japchae still isn’t hot enough for your liking. 

For the skillet, add a few more minutes if the japchae is being stored frozen. No matter what method you use, be sure to serve the japchae as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Korean cuisine is unique because of its health benefits, delicious flavor, and intriguing versatility. 

Japchae is a signature dish in Korea that consists of stir-fried vegetables and meat can be added too. It dates back to the 17th century and is still a common food choice today.

The ingredients that go into japchae differ, but primarily, japchae is made of stir-fried glass noodles, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, chili and bell peppers, and garlic chives. 

Mushrooms are essential, and these mushrooms are either wood ear, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms.

You can prepare and eat japchae in several ways. Korean dishes are known for how flexible they are, and how they can be eaten in almost any manner you can think of. 

Japchae can be eaten on its own as a main course, as a side dish, or even in a stew or soup.

About The Author

Photo of author

Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

You May Also Like