empty-the-fridge chapchae {korean glass noodles}

For the first seven years of marriage, I managed to avoid cooking Asian-inspired meals for the most part.  I had basically zero experience with Asian cooking, and for some reason I was intimidated by it.  (Could it be because I married a Chinese guy who grew up eating the real thing? Yeah, maybe…)

But since we’ve started shifting our eating to more of a plant-based diet, I’ve had to start changing the way I cook.  Meals that are heavy on vegetables have replaced our old meat-and-potatoes-with-a-side-of-something-green style.  I’ve realized that Asian dishes are some of the easiest to make without meat because they’re typically full of veggies already, so I just have to up the amount to make a filling meal.

Korean chapchae (or japchae) is a colorful dish containing glass noodles (which are made from sweet potatoes), a variety of thinly sliced veggies, and a simple sauce of sesame oil, soy, and sugar.  I’d eaten it once and loved it, many years ago, and I was reminded of this tasty dish when I discovered Korean-style dried noodles at a local Asian market.  Glass noodles are almost transparent when cooked, and they taste nothing like sweet potatoes — the flavor is actually very mild and the noodles absorb whatever sauces and flavors they’re served with.  They’re also great served cold or at room temperature.  And, they’re gluten-free!

One reason I love chapchae is because I can use whatever vegetables I have on hand at the time.  The following recipe is just an example of how I might make this dish, but feel free to add or subtract veggies, and use more or less sauce depending on your taste preference.  Also, this dish is good with meat…try this marinade if you’d like to add beef or chicken!


about 12 oz Korean style dried noodles (may be labeled “glass” or “cellophane” noodles, or as “dangmyeon”)

1 T. sesame oil

2 T. coconut oil (or any vegetable oil)

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks (or coarsely grated…because I strongly dislike matchstick-ing carrots!)

1 cup sliced mushrooms (any type)

several stalks of green onions, sliced (white and green parts)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 lb baby spinach (about 3 cups)

1/4 c. soy sauce

2 T. sugar

2 T. sesame seeds

Boil a large pot of water.  Add noodles and cook 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow to sit 5 minutes, then drain.  (This is the amount of time necessary at my altitude of 8,500 feet, but they will likely cook more quickly at sea level!)  Rinse with cold water, drain, and toss with half of the tablespoon of sesame oil.  With kitchen shears, cut through noodles 2 or 3 times.  Set aside.

Combine soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl.  In a wok or large saute pan, add coconut oil over high heat.  When oil is hot (but not smoking) add onions and carrots and and fry for about 2 minutes.  Push them to the edges of the pan and add mushrooms, green onions, and garlic.  Fry 2 minutes more.  (Add extra cooking oil if necessary.)  Stir in spinach, soy sauce mixture, and noodles.  Turn heat down to medium, and cook about 2 more minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in sesame seeds and remaining half a tablespoon of sesame oil.  Taste, and add more soy sauce/sugar/sesame as desired. 

Serve the chapchae hot, or for even better flavor, allow the dish to sit until room temperature, then serve.  Chapchae can also be refrigerated and served cold.

{Serves 4 as a main dish}




This entry was posted in Cooking, Nutrition, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to empty-the-fridge chapchae {korean glass noodles}

  1. Kodi says:

    Oh I’m so excited to try this! I hope I can find the noodles at our grocery store.

    • Abby says:

      I’ve never looked for glass noodles at a regular grocery store…I guess I just assumed they wouldn’t be there! I hope you can find them, though! I need to check our local grocery next time I’m in there…

  2. Yum! Your version seems so much easier than the recipe I’ve made in the past. I also like the idea of cutting the glass noodles a little smaller. I think I have some on hand, so we’ll probably have this on our menu next week 🙂 I’ve been trying to move away from meat as center plate for some time. Any help I can get is always welcome! Thanks for sharing, Abby!

    • Abby says:

      I hope you all like this version! I’ve tried a few different recipes that required frying just one veggie at a time, and that took WAY too long. So I just do several veggies that require longer cooking time first, then add the rest. Two stages is much simpler than 5 or 6!

  3. Pingback: Spotlight Recipe: Spiced Pork & Our Allergy Meal Plan | The Willing Cook

  4. Pingback: Our Food Allergy Home Meal Plan, New Year Edition | The Willing Cook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *