From the author: Dating back to the 17th century, chap chae (or japchae) is maybe the most popular and best-known Korean noodle dish in the West. The combination of soy sauce, vinegar, rice wine, and sesame oil is key to the whole thing, but beyond that, it’s just about infinitely flexible, and it’s a good way to clean out your fridge. Though it’s typically made with glass (sweet potato) noodles, I’ve substituted Japanese soba noodles here, partly because they’re healthier, but mostly because they’re much easier to find in a typical grocery store’s Asian Foods section. If you have glass noodles, though, by all means, use them. (If you can’t find soba noodles, you can sub in rice noodles, cellophane noodles, angel hair pasta, or pretty much whatever.)
The vegetables in this recipe are really only a suggestion as well – the red pepper, shallot or onion, and scallions are all standards, and julienned carrots are usually in there too (and would have been if I hadn’t been out of them on the day I made this), but you can use any kind of fresh mushrooms instead of the dried shiitakes, and add any other vegetables you like. (Thinly sliced cabbage, shredded brussels sprouts, and green beans or snow peas would all be good additions/substitutions.)
Chap chae is often served as a side dish, but it also makes a great entree, and if you feel like really carbo-loading, you can make it into chap-chae bap and serve it on top of white rice. As with most things chap-chae-related, it’s entirely up to you.
2asparagus spearsbodies cut into thin disks and tips halved
2scallionscut into 1/2-inch pieces
4dried shiitake mushroomssoaked in hot water for 5 minutes, drained, and cut into thin strips
2tablespoonsof mirinJapanese sweet rice wine (you can substitute sake, white wine, or water, though maybe add a pinch of sugar if you do)
2tablespoonsof soy sauce
1teaspoonof cider vinegar
½teaspoonof sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Salt and pepper
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. (The ones I used took around 5 minutes.) Drain in a colander or strainer, and rinse them under cold water until cool.
Heat the canola oil in a pan over high heat. While the pan is getting hot, season the vegetables with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the shallot (or onion) and red pepper to the pan, and stir fry until the shallot is softened around 3 minutes.
Add the asparagus, scallions, mushrooms, and garlic to the pan, and stir fry until the vegetables are cooked, around 3 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the mirin (pour in the mirin and scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan). Add the noodles, and stir them in.
Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve either hot or at room temperature.