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Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)

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Japchae is a Korean noodle dish that is very popular in Hawaii. It's made from glass noodles (dangmyeon) and many different vegetable. Some places add meat but we love to make this vegetarian japchae recipe at home.

Glass noodles and a rainbow of vegetables!

What Is Japchae?

Japchae is a Korean dish made from glass noodles tossed with many vegetables, beef/pork (optional), and seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce.

Japchae is especially loved in Hawaii. You'll find japchae on the menu of all Korean restaurants, and for sale as a grab-and-go item at Korean supermarkets. It's always the most popular side dish at Korean plate lunch spots. My favorite Korean plate lunch spot (Gina's in Market City), often sells out of japchae before 3pm...sometimes I go extra early to pick up takeout dinner for the night!

What Goes In Japchae?

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Japchae is made of three main things:

  • Dangmyeon (a glass noodle made from sweet potato starch)
  • Lots of vegetables! Shiitake mushrooms, spinach, sweet and green onions, carrots, bell peppers, and more.
  • Beef or pork. The meat is optional, we skipped it for this recipe.

Japchae is seasoned with three key flavors:

Japchae can be served hot, but is equally great at room temperature. You can eat it as a main dish or as a side dish. There's so much flexibility with japchae. Missing one or two of the vegetables? That's fine. Have extra mushrooms or carrots sitting around and want to use it up? This dish is perfect for that. Add meat, skip meat, it's all up to you. 

Japchae or Jap Chae?

I've seen it spelled both ways (japchae and jap chae) in Hawaii and I've been told that both are correct. Japchae seems to be more common.

What is Dangmyeon?

Dangmyeon is a Korean "glass noodle." The noodle is made from sweet potato starch and become translucent (hence the "glass") once cooked. They are very long noodles! So you'll need to cut them before eating. You'll typically find dangmyeon for sale as a 3-pack bundle in Korean supermarkets. We buy the "Assi" brand which seems to be the most popular brand at the market.

My Dangmyeon Pick:

This recipe calls for one bundle (which is 8 ounces) of the dried dangmyeon noodle. To cook the noodles, you just put it in boiling water and cook for about 8 minutes. Make sure to stir every two minutes so that the noodles don't stick. 

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is a key ingredient in japchae (and other recipes you'll find on this site). There are many different brands available, but we like to use the Japanese Kadoya Sesame Oil.

My Sesame Oil Pick:

We use sesame oil so often, I buy the big 56 ounce container (I pour it out into a small bottle for easier everyday use). Here's a more normal size 11 ounce bottle. This sesame oil is pure and clean, and the flavor is wonderful. I love sesame oil!

Japchae in Hawaii

I know this post is about making Japchae, but if you want to just eat japchae in Hawaii, there are many places. Here are a few we frequent:

  • Gina's B-B-Q (Oahu) - We've been visiting this family-run Korean plate lunch spot since high school! I always get the Gina's Special which allows you to pick four sides. You can sure bet I pick japchae to serve as two of my four options! The other two I usually pick the potato salad and bean sprouts.
  • Yummy's (Oahu) - Another popular Korean plate lunch spot on Oahu.
  • Palama Supermarket (Oahu) - There's lots of grab-and-go packaged food items at this popular Korean supermarket. I like to get japchae + kimbap for a quick lunch.

Japchae Recipe

Ok now we get to the cool part! Here's the step by step of how to make japchae. This is a vegetarian japchae recipe but feel free to add meat (beef or pork) if you'd like.

These are the ingredients that you'll need:

  • 1 large egg
  • 6 ounces spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 bundle (8 ounces) dried dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles)
  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for an hour, then cut into thin (1/4 inch) strips - If I'm in a rush and don't have time to soak the mushrooms, I take a bowl, fill it 2/3 with water. Microwave it for 2 minutes (so that it's near boiling). Put all the mushrooms in the bowl. Cover with foil for 10-15 minutes (to trap the heat). Then remove and drain. The mushrooms should be soft enough to slice. 
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 6 green onions, cut into 2-inch long pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch long thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin (1/4 inch) strips
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoon roasted white sesame seeds

Note: Many traditional japchae recipes call for a good amount of sugar. I add a tablespoon of honey, but omit all sugar. We already eat so many desserts in Hawaii, I try to cut the sugar where we can ^_^

Now we start cooking!

Make the omelet:

Beat the egg, add in a pinch of salt. Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add oil. Turn to low and pour in the egg. Swirl the pan gently so that the egg spreads evenly. Cook on low for a minute or two. Flip the egg over, turn off the heat and let the other side cook for another minute. Transfer the egg to a cutting board and let cool. Roll it up and slice into thin strips. Set aside.

Prepare the spinach:

Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 15-seconds. Remove, squeeze to drain liquid. Toss the spinach with a teaspoon each of soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.

Cook the noodles:

Cook the dangmyeon noodles in a boiling water for 8 minutes. Stir every two minutes to make sure they don't stick. Strain the noodles. Cut them twice with scissors (otherwise the noodles will be too long).

In a big mixing bowl, mix/toss the noodles with two teaspoons each of the soy sauce and sesame oil. Add in the spinach, toss to mix. Set aside.

Cook the vegetables:

Heat skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil, and stir fry the sweet onion and green onion together for two minutes (just till the sweet onion turns slightly translucent). Add it to the big mixing bowl with the noodles.

Then repeat this stir fry step for the shiitake mushrooms (one minute), carrots (three minutes), and red bell peppers (two minutes). Season each vegetable with just a bit of salt. Add each vegetable to the big mixing bowl with the noodles once done stir frying. Make sure to wipe the skillet clean between each vegetable (and re-oil the pan if needed).

Stir frying each vegetable separately makes a big difference in the end - it's worth the extra steps. 

Now all the vegetables and noodles are together in one big bowl. Give it all a good mix (to get it really well mixed, put on disposable gloves and use your hands).

Make the sauce:

In a small bowl, combine: 8 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Mix and then pour that all over the bowl with the noodles. Mix again till evenly incorporated. 

Note: my parents and I super love garlic, sometimes we will use an entire head of garlic for this recipe. Do as you please. 

Assemble and eat:

Add the sliced egg and 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds. Mix once more and serve! Wonderful warm but also great at room temperature.

Japchae takes many steps, but is an easy recipe to prepare. You just need a little patience. We usually eat japchae for a light lunch or serve it as a side dish during dinner. It's a crowd pleaser and such an easy to love dish. I hope you enjoy it ^_^

Japchae

Japchae

Yield: Side dish for 6 people (or a meal for 3)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This Korean glass noodle (with lots of vegetables) dish is popular in Hawaii. You'll find it on the menu of Korean restaurants and as a side dish option at Korean plate lunch spots! We make this vegetarian version at home often.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 6 ounces spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 bundle (8 ounces) dried dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles)
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 6 green onions, cut into 2-inch long pieces
  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 1 hour, then cut into thin (1/4") strips
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin (1/4 inch) strips
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoon roasted white sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Make the omelet: beat the egg, add in a pinch of salt. Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add oil, swirl to coat. Turn to low and pour in the egg. Swirl the pan gently so that the egg spreads evenly. Cook on low for a minute or two. Flip the egg over, turn off the heat and the other side cook for another minute. Transfer the egg to a cutting board and let cool. Slice into thin strips. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the spinach: blanch the spinach in boiling water for 15-seconds. Remove, squeeze to drain liquid. Toss the spinach with a teaspoon each of soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.
  3. Cook the noodles: cook the dangmyeon noodles in a boiling water for 8 minutes. Stir ever two minutes to make sure they don't stick. Strain the noodles. Cut them twice with scissors (otherwise the noodles will be too long). In a big mixing bowl, mix/toss the noodles with two teaspoons each of sesame oil and soy sauce. Add in the spinach, toss to mix. Set aside.
  4. Cook the vegetables: heat skillet to medium-high. Add oil, and stir fry the sweet onion and green onion together for two minutes (till sweet onions just start to turn translucent). Add it to the big mixing bowl with the noodles.
  5. Wipe the skillet. Stir fry the shiitake mushrooms for one minute. Season with a bit of salt. Add it to the big mixing bowl.
  6. Wipe the skillet. Stir fry the carrots for three minutes. Season with a bit of salt. Add it to the big mixing bowl.
  7. Wipe the skillet. Stir fry the red bell peppers for two minutes. Season with a bit of salt. Add it to the big mixing bowl.
  8. Now all the vegetables and noodles are together in one big bowl. Give it a good mix. 
  9. Make the "sauce." In a small bowl, combine: 8 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Mix the sauce well, and pour the sauce over the bowl with the noodles. Mix again till evenly incorporated. 
  10. Add the sliced egg and 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds. Mix gently once more and serve! Wonderful hot but also great at room temperature. Leftovers heat up well in the microwave.

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