Korean sweet potato noodles with assorted vegetables: my friends' favorite potluck dish
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
This is a dish loved by my friends the most. They like it so much that I have received many requests to bring it to their parties. It is called "잡채": sweet potato noodles mixed with assorted vegetables and a protein-rich food of your choice (eggs, beaf, seafood). You may have seen it at Korean restaurants.
This dish first came into being in the 17th century at a palace banquet and quickly became a staple of a Korean royal court cuisine. However, it did not gain its popularity among the public until the 20th century, when the sweet potato noodles called "당면" were made available.
The way this dish is prepared for is quite similar to the one for Bibimbap. The main difference is that this dish is served with sweet potato noodles instead of rice. What I like about these noodles is their chewy texture. It is appetizing by itself and marries well with almost any ingredient you throw to this dish. Because these noodles are made of starch, they also absorb most water that is generated from cooked vegetables, preserving this dish's freshly cooked flavors for hours.
If you have these sweet potato noodles in your pantry, you can always whip up these tasty noodle dish quickly with some leftover vegetables in your refrigerator. If you don't, no worries. You can also serve this dish over rice.
Ingredients for 4-6 servings
One sweet onion (thinly sliced)
One medium carrot (julienned)
One pound of asparagus (cut into 2-inch sticks)
Twenty dry Shitake mushrooms* (soaked in water overnight and thinly sliced)
Six dry wood ear mushrooms* (soaked in water for at least an hour and torn into small pieces)
One red bell pepper (thinly sliced)
A quarter pound of seafood mixture* (uncooked, snap-frozen squid, chopped octopus, scallops, mussels, and shrimps)
One clove of garlic
A pinch of ginger powder
Freshly ground black pepper
Sweet potato noodle (50 g per serving; available at Korean grocery stores; see the picture below)
Fermented soy sauce* 2 tsp. My favorite is Sempio naturally brewed soy sauce (see its picture below). Fermented soy sauce has layers of deep flavors that chemically produced soy sauce (most soy sauce belong to this category) does not have. Please make sure to read the label before purchasing a bottle of soy sauce. Do you worry about its shelf-life? Because it is too salty, microbes cannot grow in it. I keep it on the shelf for over a year.
A pinch of sugar
*Available at any Asian grocery market or on Amazon.
First, you need to boil water in a wide pan and defrost the seafood mixture by taking a portion out of the package and immersing it in water. To cook the sweet potato noodles, put them in a boiling water, cover the pan, turn off the heat, and keep them in hot water for 12 minutes. While waiting for the noodles to be cooked, you can cut all vegetables as specified above.
Once the noodles are cooked, they will look transparent. Rince them under cold water, drain and season them with soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil in a mixing bowl.
If you are done with chopping and slicing vegetables, you are ready to roll now. Heat up a stir-fry pan over a medium high heat with one teaspoon of oil on the pan.
Once the pan is hot enough, stir-fry the sliced onion first. When they become somewhat translucent, add the julienned carrots to the pan. Stir-fry them for a minute or so. Now add the sliced asparagus to the pan. Sprinkle one teaspoon of salt over the vegetable mixture, mix everything well, and cover the pan. Lower the heat to the medium level and let the water coming out of vegetables steam them for a minute.
While steaming the vegetables in the pan, rinse and drain the seafood mixture.
Open the lid and raise the heat to the medium high level. Add the sliced mushrooms, bell peppers, and another teaspoon of salt to the vegetable mixture in the pan. Stir-fry the mushrooms for a minute and add the seafood mixture to the pan (if you are vegetarian, you can skip the seafood). Continue to stir-fry everything for one or two minutes until shrimps turn pink. Turn off the heat, add chopped garlic, ginger powder, freshly ground black peppers, and the seasoned noodles to the pan, and mix everything well. Season the final dish with salt to your taste.
Voila! You got yourself one of the most popular Korean dishes, 잡채. Of note, if you want some yellow color, you can add yellow bell peppers, soybean sprouts, or thin egg papers to this dish.
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