The Korean restaurants in BJ has this dish translated as za cai (杂菜) on the menu and I always wonder if it's actually a noodle or a vegetable dish. Because, (1) nowhere in the name can you tell it's a noodle dish, and (2) the only 杂菜 or chap chye I've known all my life was this Nonya stir-fried vegetable dish. Well, Prof Wiki's explanation also doesn't sound convincing:
The name, japchae, comprises the two hanja words; jap (hangul: 잡, hanja: 雜, literally "mixed and stirred") and chae (hangul: 채, hanja: 菜, literally "vegetables"). Therefore, japchae literally means "a mixture of vegetables."
My love for this dish comes from my love for tanghoon (冬粉) aka glass noodles. I heart dang hoon everywhere, with fishball soup, chap chye, claypot crab, steamboat, stir-fried thai style, etc, etc.
Surfing the net has also made me realise that almost every Asian country has her own cellophane noodle dish. In Korea, glass noodles are made of sweet potato starch and is called dangmyun (당면 or 唐麵). It has a more greyish shade because of the sweet potato starch content.
Japchae (Korean stir-fried noodles)
Adapted from recipe by Korean food guru Maangchi. Besides posting the recipe of each dish, Maangchi also has a video of herself cooking on Youtube which is really useful for first timers like me.
250g Korean starch noodles "dangmyun"
150g Minced meat
1 bunch Spinach (washed and drained)
1 Carrot (cut into thin strips)
1 pkt White mushroom 金针菇 (seperated)
5 Dried shitake mushroom (soaked, drained & sliced thinly)
1 White onion (sliced thinly)
3 cloves Garlic (chopped)
3 eggs (beaten, fried & sliced thinly)
Seasoning (the amounts can be changed according to your preference):
2-3tbsp Soya Sauce
1tbsp Sesame Oil
1-2tbsp Roasted sesame seeds
* Blanch spinach. Dunk cooked spinach in cold water to retain fresh green colour. Drain spinach & squeeze out as much water as you can. Cut spinach into 2 inch length and mix it with 1/2 tbsp soya sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil (not included in Seasoning list above). Set this aside.
* Fry carrot strips in 1/2tbsp oil till soft. Set aside.
* Fry white mushroom in 1/2tbsp oil till soft. Set aside.
* Fry onion slices in 1/2tbsp oil till soft and translucent. Set aside.
* Fry chopped garlic in 1tbsp oil, add minced meat, sliced shitake mushroom and 1/2tsp pepper. Set aside when cooked.
* Boil dangmyun till soft (takes about 3 minutes).
* Drain cooked dangmyun, but don't wash it with cold water.
* Add sugar and liquid seasonings into dangmyun and mix quickly and thoroughly.
* Mix in all cooked ingredients.
* Sprinkle roasted sesame onto japchae before serving.
You can also reduce the number of ingredients to make simple japchae ^__^
Here's a sample of simple japchae served as a side dish in a restaurant: