Japchae is the best.
by Taylor Sweet (스위트)
Since I’ve lived in Los Angeles for my whole life, I have had the privilege of trying amazing foods from all different types of cultures and backgrounds. I’m lucky that I live in close enough proximity to Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and, my personal favorite, Koreatown, because I’m able to eat food that is as closest to authentic as I can get in L.A.
Immigrants from all over the world choose L.A. as their place to settle down, so it’s not just communities like Koreatown that have amazing food, either. You can find some pretty good stuff scattered all over the greater L.A. area.
One thing that I love about eating at Korean restaurants is all of the small side dishes, or banchan, that are provided to complement your meal. The most famous being, of course, kimchi. But the other little dishes don’t get enough credit.
Look at that banchan spread!
There are cucumbers, bean sprouts, fish cakes — the list goes on because there are so many different varieties of banchan. But my personal favorite is a noodle dish called japchae.
Japchae is made by stir-frying sweet potato glass noodles in sesame oil and soy sauce with a variety of vegetables. Typically, the vegetables used are carrots, onions, mushrooms, and green onions, but if you’re making it yourself and not eating it at a restaurant, it’s really up to your personal preference and what you want to put in your japchae. Beef could also add an entire new dimension to japchae, too!
You don’t have to reserve the noodles as just a side dish, either. They can totally be a satisfying and pretty healthy main dish!
A Little History Lesson…
Japchae, or (잡채), translates into “mixed vegetables.” According to Korean history, the first japchae dish was made for King Gwanghaegun in the 17th century, and it was so positively received by the ruler that as a result, the person who made it received a government position.
The earliest version of japchae consisted only of stir-fried vegetables at this point — it wasn’t until the 20th century that noodles and meat were added to the dish. In addition to the lack of widespread cattle farming in Korea, the significance of Buddhism meant that cattle were not slaughtered for meat, and most dishes were vegetarian. Today, the noodles and meat are typically the spotlight of the dish.
If you don’t have the fortune of being near a Korean restaurant and want to try making japchae on your own, you’re in luck because I just saved you time scouring the internet for recipes –I have one right here from Maangchi!