I’ve wanted to try making Korean Japchae noodles for ages, but abandoned the project prematurely when I discovered one of the local Korean markets in my neighborhood didn’t sell the star ingredient– sweet potato starch-based vermicelli. Since this signature dish at Korean restaurants contains soy sauce (not gluten-free for a celiac gal like me), I knew that if I was ever going to taste Japchae noodles, I’d better make them myself.
But after securing the elusive noodles at a local Asian supermarket, I was in business. And a small small bundle of additional ingredients later– 1/4 lb of fresh shiitakes, a carrot, some scallions and a bag of baby spinach leaves– I was headed home to try my hand at Korean cooking.
I followed this recipe from Chow.com almost to a tee, swapping out the regular soy sauce for reduced sodium, wheat-free Tamari sauce instead. It was a FUN recipe to make! The highlights for me were using kitchen shears to trim fat, sesame-oil slicked noodles into manageable segments (a project I’d recommend you allow an older child to help with… it’s such a tactile pleasure to slice through those plump, slippery things!) and practicing my knife skills to achieve matchstick carrots and paper-thin shiitake slices that would find camouflage enough in the noodles so that my kids won’t pick them out. To keep this dish interactive, try letting toddlers and preschoolers sprinkle their own sesame seeds on top when serving.