I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with japchae (pronounced sort of like “chop-chai) lately. There is a Korean restaurant a block over from my office and they make killer japchae. I order it often. Like…really often. To the point that I actually used a fake name when I ordered it recently because I didn’t want the guy who took my to-go order to realize that I was calling for the third time that week. I just love the translucent noodles and the way the runny egg yolk makes a sauce when it is pierced open. I decided to give cooking it a try myself. Since I live less than one mile from a large Asian grocery store, the noodles and tofu were easy to find. The cabbage and spinach were in our CSA box. Everything else was already in the kitchen. You can substitute the tofu for any kind of meat, but after ordering it as often as I have been lately, tofu is probably a better option.
For this recipe, we had Malabar spinach, which has woody stems. I simply stripped the leaves off the stems and proceeded like normal. Actually, I gave my 2-year old the task of stripping the leaves off. If she can do it, anybody can do it. Also, feel free to add other vegetables as you have them available. Mushrooms, onions, and carrots would all be great additions. This dish is a good catch-all for vegetables.
1 large brick of hard tofu, sliced into 1/4″ slices
1/2 c soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
8 oz sweet potato noodles, available aplenty in any Asian grocery store, may be labeled “dangmyeon”
1 small head of cabbage, medium chop
2 c spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T sugar
2 – 4 eggs
Sesame seeds (optional)
Marinate the tofu in the soy sauce and sesame oil. If you plan ahead, you can do this several hours in advance. Or just start the recipe by marinating it and let it soak while you prepare the rest.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the sweet potato noodles for 4-5 minutes or until they are tender. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a large skillet or wok over high heat, cook the cabbage in a small amount of oil until it is tender. Near the end of the cooking, add the spinach and garlic. When the spinach is wilted and the garlic is fragrant, remove from the heat and set aside.
In the same skillet (or a new one, I’m not here to judge), fry the tofu slices in 1-2 T of oil until they develop a golden brown color. Flip once to color both sides. Set aside. Fry the eggs one at a time to your desired level of runny-ness. Set aside
In the skillet, combine the noodles, vegetables, sugar, and any remaining marinade. If you used meat, do not reuse the marinade juice, just add enough soy sauce and sesame oil to give the flavor you enjoy. Reheat over medium flame if necessary. Dish up the noodles and top with the slices of tofu and an egg or two. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for that extra flourish.