A few years back, we had a Korean family next door. The wife looked like she came from one of those Korean soaps: pretty, elegant with an oval face and the clearest skin I've ever seen. But Youngsook wasn't just a pretty-faced xiaoje. She could cook. From her, I learnt to make a few types of kimchi, all kinds of soups (Korean cuisine is big on soups because a long time ago when the country was starving a soup with rice could feed a whole family), cook rice in a pressure cooker which gives rice an el dente bite, and make japchae which sounds like 'chupchoy' (mixed veg) in Cantonese/Hakka.
I highly recommend this dish the next time you have a pot-luck. A bit of this and that makes a whole mountain to feed a whole army. The only problem is this dish doesn't keep well. It goes sour easily because the whole dish is not fried together, and also at pot-luck parties we tend to just leave the food out for too long. It is a better idea to dish out the jabchae in batches. If you do have leftovers, you can fry or steam it to re-heat.
250g sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon), soaked in room temp. water
5 dried Chinese black mushrooms (not flower mushrooms), soaked n caps sliced very thinly
1 carrot, cut into toothpick-thin strips
2 small stalks of leeks, sliced thinly diagonally
1 handful spinach, blanched and cut into 1.5"/4 cm lengths
1 brown onion, cut into thin slices
2 eggs, separated
1 cup pork (not too lean) or beef, cut into very thin strips
1/2 cup ham or fish cake, in very thin strips (optional but the ham does give extra flavor)
2 T toasted sesame seeds
sesame oil, sugar, salt and Kikkoman soy sauce
1. Soak the noodles in room-temperature water for about 3 hours. Then put them in a large pot of boiling water. Test a strand with your fingers. Remember that noodles will firm up a bit when cool but you also don't want them too soft. Take noodles off the fire, drain well, put them into a big bowl (in which you are going to mix all the ingredients) and snip here and there with scissors because the noodles are very long.
2. Put mushrooms (squeeze out water) and pork/beef into a bowl and marinade with 2 T Kikkoman sauce, 1 T fine sugar, 1/2 t sesame oil, 4 to 5 garlic that's chopped fine and 2 T finely chopped spring onions.
3. Fry the egg whites and yolks separately (or together if like) into thin omeletes and cut into very thin strips. You should use low heat because high heat will cause the omelete to bubble and crisp, like mine (blame it on Vero again) and that would make it hard to cut into fine strips. Sprinkle some salt and black pepper over the egg strips and mix.
4. Squeeze water out from the spinach and toss with 1 teaspoon of the sesame seeds, sesame oil and salt.
5. Fry the leeks, carrots and onion separately in a little bit of oil and salt, and sprinkle some black pepper over each.
6. Now put all the ingredients (leave some egg strips for topping) into the bowl of noodles and add salt, sugar, soy sauce, sesame seeds (leave some for topping) and LOTS of sesame oil, tasting and adjusting as you mix. Youngsook liked to use her hands to mix; said they mix better than chopsticks.
Serve at room temperature. Make sure you serve this dish within 2 or 3 hours of mixing. Otherwise, chill it and re-heat although that way the dish doesn't taste as good.
Dangmyeon (picture, right) is available in Korea Market at Tanjung Aru Plaza (RM22/500g) and Recipes House in Damai (RM27/500g). Giant Supermarkets stock China-made dangmyeon (picture, left) for only RM6.90/400g but DO NOT use this brand because after scalding with hot water, the noodles become a sticky tangled mess!