Japchae is a classic Korean stir fry dish using deliciously chewy, gluten-free sweet potato vermicelli. Although mainly a party or celebratory dish in Korea, it is easy enough to make for the (non-party mode) family – even as a midweek meal. The sweet potato vermicelli makes it sound very exotic, but it is in fact pretty straightforward. If you can do a Chinese stir fry, this is not much more of a culinary stretch. The flavours however are very different to a typical stir fry, with sweet and salty predominant in a typical japchae.
I know! Something sweet from me!
The sweet in my food to glow version is from something called yuzu tea (yujacha) – also called citron tea.
This is marmalade by another name, and an incredibly fragrant and alluring one at that. It is made from the yuzu fruit, a type of citrus that comes from China. The flavour of yuzu tea – made with honey, yuzu flesh and rind – is of grapefruit and lime, with distinct blossom and ‘green’ notes. My marmalade-loving husband was keen to keep it for himself. I – not so much a marmalade fan – found myself dipping a (clean) teaspoon in just for the taste. I got the jar as a sample from souschef.co.uk but will certainly be ordering a paid-for jar – it’s that delicious. Koreans drink it for the taste but also to help with colds and winter bugs, dropping a teaspoon in hot water and drinking it down like we would a mug of PG Tips, or me my Spiced Golden Turmeric Milk.
As for the recipe itself, the key to any stir fry – as you well know – is preparation. In this case marinading and baking the tofu (or not, if you get pre-made), boiling the noodles and chopping the veg. Not too hard at all. You can boil the noodles up ahead if you like and store in the fridge (oiled and sliced so they are easy to stir in); the veg too can be chopped and waiting for you and your wok. And of course the tofu can be done a couple of days prior, or just use flavoured tofu, fresh prawns or sliced lean meat – the latter being the traditional protein in japchae.
I think I’m making it sound onerous to do it all in a one-er but it really is not at all. I have made this several times on week nights, sometimes adding sriracha for heat when serving, sometimes fried garlic and chilli pieces, and sometimes with no noodles at all, just ribbons of courgette and carrot. None of these ideas are traditional but the basic marinade and sauce makes it all come together, despite my tinkering.
And just to be honest with you, this recipe is a little higher in fat, salt and sugar than my norm, so I wouldn’t say this is an everyday choice for us – although I could eat a version of this every day and be very happy. In my defence it is less salty, oily and sweet than recipes I consulted when making this one. I like to think that all of the other healthy ingredients make up for the salty, sweet sins, but I fear I am just kidding myself! Enjoy this indulgent-for-food to glow recipe. 😉
Korean Stir fry with Sweet Potato Noodles and Baked Marinated Tofu
Quite a mouthful to say, and to eat. Sweet potato noodles are not commonly found in UK supermarkets, but you will find them in Asian and Chinese supermarkets, and online from places like sous-chef.co.uk, where I purchased mine. Of course use any wheat, buckwheat or rice noodles you fancy. And for that matter please use bought marinated tofu, fat prawns or the more usual sliced beef if you don’t have the time/inclination to marinate and bake the tofu. But I highly recommend it!
Marinated Baked Tofu:
200g pack firm organic tofu
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or shoyu/tamari
1 tbsp rice vinegar, lemon juice or white vinegar
1 heaped tbsp yuzu ‘honey tea’/marmalade OR 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
White pepper, about ¼ tsp
50g sweet potato noodles (or two ‘nests’)
½ tsp rapeseed oil (for boiling the noodles)
200g baby spinach and/or young chard or other bitter green, chopped (I used both)
4 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or alternatives
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp yuzu honey tea or dark sugar
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely sliced (I used red)
8 -10 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 spring onions/scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 young carrot, julienned or finely shredded
1 young courgette/zucchini, shredded or finely julienned
Toasted sesame seeds, to serve
1. First of all, if you are not making the tofu, use the tofu marinade on your chosen protein. Use your judgement on how long to marinate, but for most choices marinate for about half an hour. If you are making the baked tofu, press out the liquid between two tea towels, placing a heavy-ish pan on top to hasten this. Leave for about 15 minutes. Slice the tofu cake into two slimmer slabs then cut the tofu into cubes and place the cubes in a shallow dish.
2. Stir up the marinade ingredients, pour it over the cubed tofu, and gently toss; leave to marinate for at least half an hour. Lift out of the marinade with a slotted spoon (or just very carefully), saving any marinade for the stir fry.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Lay the tofu pieces on a baking tray lined with oiled foil, parchment paper or Silpat, and bake until the tofu is not longer wet and the surface is ‘bouncy’ and very firm – about 30-45 minutes. You may like it verging on quite crispy so leave it a little longer if you like. For other proteins, marinate for half an hour then set aside while you prepare the noodles.
4. For the noodles themselves, place the dry noodles into a deep pan of boiling water with the ½ tsp of oil and boil for about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse. You may like to use scissors to cut up the noodles as they are quite long and unwieldy for mixing in the stir fry.
5. Now blanch the spinach in a little water until collapsed. Drain and press as much water out as you can. Pop on a chopping board and roughly chop. You can also wilt the spinach in the stir fry itself, but it can be unwieldy if you don’t have a large wok. Set aside.
6. Now we can get cracking and get eating! Heat the remaining ½ tbsp oil in a wok or large wide pan. While it is heating, stir up the liquid ingredients in a small jug and have handy by the hob/stove. If you are stir frying marinated beef or prawns, drain and cook these quickly over a medium high heat and set aside. Pour a little more oil to the pan.
7. Add the onion to the hot wok and stir fry for three minutes or so, then add the mushrooms, the garlic and spring onions, stirring and tossing for about two minutes. Slide in the shredded carrots and courgettes/zucchini, the blanched spinach (or the raw spinach, as you prefer), little jug of marinade and any leftover marinade, tossing and stirring for another minute or so. Now add in the cooked sweet potato noodles, tossing well to coat and warm. Stir in the cooked prawns/beef if you were using either of these.
8. Divide the vegetable noodles between four deep bowls or onto plates, and top with baked marinated tofu and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Leftovers are also delicious warmed the next day.
Using up your yuzu tea: use it as a glaze for chicken or salmon (mix with some vinegar and soy); in salad dressing (I’ve done this – yum); in cheesecake and muffins/cake instead of lemon zest or lemon curd (adapt my Carrot and Marmalade Cake recipe perhaps?); and of course, spread on toast!
And here’s some actual recipes:
How To Make Yuzu Tea via Just Hungry
Quick & Easy Yuzu Ice Cream by Kavey Eats (looks beautifully decadent!)
A load of dessert and sweet ideas from She Who Eats
Crispy Korean Beef Salad via Beyond Kimchee
Other Korean-inspired recipes on Food To Glow:
Kimchi and Avocado Lunch Wraps (grain-free/easily vegan)
Kimchi and Carrot Pancakes (Kimchi Jeon)
Spicy and Tangy Kale Crisps (features gochujang)
PS Thank you to my neighbour, Kathy, for the lovely dishes that you see in today’s post. She was doing a clear-out and I was the lucky beneficiary!
59 thoughts on “Korean Sweet Potato Noodle Stir Fry (Japchae) with Marinated and Baked Tofu”
Sounds incredibly flavorful and perfect for those rainy, cool summer evenings. Would orange marmalade as a sub for yuzu be too far off base?
I would think that’s fine Katie, but maybe add a little grapefruit juice or lime juice to balance the sweetness. If you can source yuzu tea it is one of those things I think you would find many used for. Actually I meant to link to a couple of yuzu tea posts so will go and do just that. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
Oowh that sure looks and sounds delicious! I would love to take a bite out of it! Enjoy!
This looks so wonderful! I love japchae and for some reason think it would be so complicated to make. Your recipe looks very doable. 🙂 Very lovely photographs.
As you will see – underneath the excess, nannying instructions from me – it is just a stir fry, but with slightly different ingredients. I hope you try it!
Wow! This looks delicious! You’ve introduced me to lots of new things in this post. Sweet Potato noodles – i had no idea there was such a thing and then I was blown away by the yuzu honey tea. Will have to keep than in mind around cold season. Thanks
I love these noodles and need to get some more to pop in the pantry. I have loads of ideas for them but I think you can’t beat a nice japchae with these. And the yuzu tea is just amazing. I am not always keen on sweet but it is such a pleasingly complex and interesting flavour. Could be quite addictive!
Mmm, this looks so good!
I never heard of sweet potato noodles – this looks amazing!
Wow this founds and looks beautiful. I make sweet potato noodle pasta but I’ve never thought of noodles in Asian dishes or seen sp noodles where do you buy these, they sound fab?
HI Tabitha. I got mine from souschef.co.uk but have to say that I haven’t looked in my go-to Chinese supermarkets but think they might be there with Korean ingredients. Any where that sells even a few Korean foods will have it as it is such a staple item. Good luck! These would be perfect for you.
Oh thank you Kellie. I haven’t come across souschef.co.uk but will be stoping by very soon. Three great finds. Thank you!!
Glad to introduce you to some yummy ingredients, Tabitha. 🙂
YUM! so bright and vivid – not to mention these are some of my favorite veggies!
This is one of my favorite noodle dishes! YUM. Now, I am hungry and on a mission to find some for lunch.
Looks so tasty!!! I will have to make this! Love your pics.
Wow! We have a Korean grocer about five minutes from our home… I am going to source that yuzu. This dish sounds amazing!
Thanks honey. You will LOVE the yuzu tea. And how lucky are you to have a dedicated Korean grocer. Well jel!
I have lots of Japanese (and some other East Asian) ingredients in store cupboard at moment, this looks lovely.
Thanks so much, Kavey. Your yuzu ice cream for afters? PS Trying to make a Froothie badge on my own, not knowing anything at all about stuff like this. Wish I were technical like you! Might be a long night…
Oh, wow-another yummy dish!!! I’ve never seen the sweet potato noodles before, but perhaps regular rice noodles or even actual sweet potato noodles made with my spiralizer! would be delicious too 🙂 Well done my friend!!!
I often see sweet potato noodles in my regular oriental store and sometimes use them in soups and stews but for this hot season I really like how you have lifted them to a whole new, light, full and rounded level. Loving that use of yuzu and sesame too x
Wow, I cant read the recipe because I cant tear my eyes away from the superb photos. You are very very clever Kellie.
How gorgeous does this look. I’m only a recent fan of Korean good having discovered kimchee in London and all their veggie options.
Looks wonderful. I also love japchae and yuzu tea. In summer, you can make ‘yuzuade’ by mixing yuzu tea syrup and carbonated water. And I would like to recommend you not to rinse the boiled glass noodles because they become sticky and stick to each other if they’re rinsed. Keep the boiled noodles in the strainer and add to the fried veges. I hope that you could enjoy much more glassy and less sticky noodles. ^^
Thanks Jessie. Hmm, I didn’t find the noodles sticky. Perhaps because of the oll? But I will try the noodles without rinsing and oiling and see what happens! Thanks for your expert advice. 🙂
^^I’m not an expert. haha Maybe because of the oil as you mentioned, or because you stir fry the noodles with veges. Many Korean people make Japchae by mixing stir-fried veges with boiled noodles with hands, not in the pan. In that case, noodles sometimes become sticky because they become cold quickly due to rinsing. If you don’t have such a problem, your way is perfectly OK. ^^
You definitely sound like an expert to me. 😉 That method sounds pretty hardcore mixing hot noodles and scalding hot veg with your hands. Yikes!
amazing!! thank you
Kellie you are the tofu queen. This looks amazing – have pinned for when I get home.
I think you trump me by being the Dubai *food* queen!
Kellie this dish looks delicious(and I didn’t have my breakfast yet!!). I really like Korean cuisine and such a pity there are no Korean places in Lux at all. I was told that Korean food is considered as the healthy one- I agree on the fact that is not as heavy and fatty as Chinese. I see you have more recipes inspired by this cuisine- I love Kimchi!, sure I’ll be trying this one as it sounds easy to make:) Have a lovely day xx
I hope you like the kimchi recipes. A Korean friend has said that Westerners make very creative dishes with kimchi. But for me you can’t beat a traditional kimchi pancake! Quick comfort food.
This looks so yummy, healthy and beautiful! I’m actually flying to Korea in a few hours, and your recipe here is making me even more super excited about going now!! 😀 Thank you!!! Happy Summer!! 🙂
So jealous!! I want to go there someday. Later this year I will be as close as I might ever get. I’ll be in Tokyo and Kyoto. Another great country for fabulous clean food flavours. Enjoy your trip!
Hi Kellie! I’m back from Korea and was so busy had no time to keep up with my blog. I loved my time there. The food is amazingly delicious and healthy in Korea, so I hope you’ll be able to go there one day. Korea is so close to Japan, you should just fly over there for a weekend getaway! 😉 Hope all is well and will be catching up on your posts again! 🙂
Thanks so much, Violet. I just went over and saw your Korean breakfast – wow! That’s is my kind of start the day feast. I am looking forward to Japanese breakfasts now. I know we won’t have a chance to ‘nip’ to S Korea but I know that I will have to go within the next few years. Saving my pennies! I hope your teaching trip was hugely fulfilling and fun too. Nice to hear from you, Violet.
Hi Kellie, the Korean breakfast is also what I would ideally love to start my day off with. 🙂 I can’t wait when you go to Japan and share with us what kind of breakfasts they have! I think you’ll love Korea when you go one day since lots of their foods are so healthy. 🙂 My teaching trip was indeed fulfilling and fun too. Thanks for asking! 🙂 Cheers, Violet
looks so delicious! :*
You LUCKY bollocks! I have been looking for a bowl like that for ages now and can’t find one come hell or high water and your neighbour discarded them in your general direction? Looks like I might have to move to Scotland ;). Seriously, I adore Korean food. My daughters cook a lot of it and introduced me to sweet potato noodles. They don’t look like the orange sweet potato that we get in our shops but are a sort of grey colour. I was a bit dubious about them but they are amazingly tasty and have a really lovely texture and add a lot to a stir fry. Love the look of this and my daughters bought lots of different Korean “teas” when we were last in Hobart (Capital city) to last them. They , like the Koreans, drink it as “tea” and have several different kinds. I am off to visit them soon so might pinch a bit of their yuzu variety and make this lovely dish. Cheers for the wonderful share 🙂
Thank you so much for your funny and kind comment. I am lucky, aren’t I? I got dishes one day and squash blossoms the next . Or something like that. I remember that your daughters are mad keen on Korean food. Maybe one of them will make you this?? I like it as the tea too, but my golden turmeric milk will always be my first medicinal love. If that makes any sense at all. I have a chest infection right now and getting loads better with the turmeric. Best stuff. Maybe I should add it to the marinade…
Wouldn’t hurt to try 😉
SO beautiful and colourful!! Looks too nice to eat! And I’ve nominated you for the Inspirational Blogger Award – thanks for inspiring me 🙂 http://ordinarygirlextraordinarydreamer.com/2014/07/26/the-inspirational-blog-award/
Thank you Jess. It is an honour to be nominated. I’ve just gone to your blog and found out we have something in common – addiction to reading 🙂 But I’m not a black belt. Sadly. In fact I broke my leg pretending I was good at karate! In mitigation I was under 10 at the time. 😉
Ohh no!! You poor thing! Reading is much safer 😉 keep doing what you’re doing now though – your recipes are always beautiful!
I was in Korea Foods this week and saw a ready made version of this japchae. Yours now hits all the right notes for me. I agree with you that their cuisine has lots of sweet flavours as well as salty so I would do as you do and try to limit eating it but the sweet potato noodles them selves sound like such a great alternative to the whet variety I have to go back and buy some now!
This is so your kind of dish, Laura. And one your children would like too with the nice, unusual yuzu tea sweetness. I made it sounds a faff but it really isn’t. Thanks for commenting. I’m in Croatia, and the wi-fi is a bit hit or miss, so I’m not so chatty on other blogs, FB etc. But I’ll catch up with your work soon. I hope you are having a wonderful holiday.
Love the sound (and look) of this! Clever way of using that glorious yuzucha too! 🙂
Thanks Kavey. With our two yuzu recipes we could have a full meal!
I love Asian cuisine and this recipe looks absolutely delicious! 🙂
We love Asian food a lot too. I feel a bit deprived if I go too long without something like this in my belly. I’m glad you like the look of this stir fry.
I adore tofu! This looks dreamy.
Thank you Emily. It’s a new fave of ours. And a fun way of using up garden greens.
A glorious winning Asian inspired dinner & I love that special marinated tofu too! Colourful, tasty healthy food! xxx
Wow that sounds sooooo good!
I think I’m gonna try it tomorrow! Thanks for the recipe! 😉