Sweet Potato Noodles: Exploring Korean Glass Noodles & Japchae – Bokksu Market

Sweet Potato Noodles: Exploring Korean Glass Noodles & Japchae

by Bokksu Staff
A serving  of 'japchae',  an icon of Korean food.

Korean vermicelli, or "dangmyeon" in Korean, is a type of noodle made from sweet potato starch. It is a staple ingredient in Korean cuisine, especially in dishes like Japchae (stir-fried noodle dish), thanks to their distinct chewy texture and excellent ability to absorb flavors. Due to their translucent appearance when cooked, they are also referred to as "glass noodles".

The Origin and Cultural Significance of Sweet Potato Noodles

Sweet potato freshly picked at a farm.

The exact historical origins of sweet potato noodles are not precisely documented, but sweet potatoes themselves have a long history in Korea. Sweet potatoes were introduced to Korea during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and quickly became a staple crop due to their ability to grow well in various climates and their nutritional value. The use of sweet potato starch to make noodles likely evolved over time as a way to utilize this versatile ingredient in Korean cuisine.

Traditional Korean dishes like Japchae showcase the long-standing use of sweet potato noodles in Korean culinary traditions. Japchae literally means "mixed veggies" and originally was a royal dish comprised solely of stir-fried vegetables, without noodles. However, it's popularity surged when sweet potato noodles were introduced, quickly becoming an integral and primary ingredient of Japchae, embraced by the wider populace. Today, Japchae holds a significant place as one of the quintessential celebratory dishes, often served during special occasions. The inclusion of noodles has imparted profound symbolic meaning, with the long strands symbolizing longevity and prosperity, reflecting the wishes for a fulfilling and prosperous life, especially during birthday celebrations.

Sweet potato noodles can be crafted from scratch by grating fresh sweet potatoes and extracting the starch to form thin strips of noodles. Alternatively, ready-to-cook versions like Surasang Sweet Potato Starch are also available.

Surasang Sweet Potato Starch Noodle

What makes sweet potato starch noodles, aka glass noodles, so unique? This particular noodle is chewier than most, creating a fun texture in dishes. These starchy noodles are commonly used in japchae, a Korean stir fry dish with vegetables. Get creative with Surasang's noodles and use them in soups or chilled salads. Don't forget to add a side of kimchi for a more authentic dish.

$6.99
16 oz

Sweet Potato Glass Noodles: What Makes Them Special?

A dish of Korean sweet potato noodles.

One of the most distinctive features of sweet potato noodles are their chewy and slightly slipper texture that adds a satisfying mouthfeel to dishes. Unlike traditional wheat-based noodles, they possess a subtle, slightly sweet taste that adds nuance without overpowering other flavors in dishes, allowing them to harmonize with savory, spicy, or tangy ingredients.

When cooked, these noodles absorb the flavors of sauces and accompanying ingredients, making them a versatile canvas for culinary creativity. Whether enjoyed in traditional Korean dishes like Japchae or integrated into inventive fusion recipes, these delightfully chewy noodles bring an enjoyable dimension to every meal.

Health Benefits of Sweet Potato Noodles

Incorporating sweet potato noodles in meals offers more than just a unique texture and flavor—it contributes to a balanced and nutritious diet with numerous health benefits. Derived from sweet potatoes, which are abundant in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, these noodles provide essential fiber and are particularly high in vitamin A, making them a healthier choice compared to traditional wheat noodles. The inclusion of fiber-rich foods like sweet potato noodles can help in regulating bowel movements, preventing constipation, and promoting overall digestive health.

Another notable nutritional advantage of sweet potato noodles is their gluten-free nature, which makes them suitable for individuals with gluten intolerance or those following a gluten-free diet. They offer an option for enjoying noodle-based dishes without compromising on taste or texture. Additionally, they are lower in calories compared to wheat-based noodles, offering a lighter alternative for those mindful of their calorie intake while still relishing a fulfilling meal.

Mastering Japchae: The Iconic Korean Dish

A serving of Japchae, Korean stir-fried glass noodles.

Japchae, or Korean stir-fried glass noodles, is among the most beloved Korean dishes featuring sweet potato noodles. It can serve as a main course or offered as a side dish in Korean restaurants. Here's a simple Japchae recipe that you can easily prepare in the comfort of your home:

Ingredients:

  • Japchae noodles or Korean sweet potato noodles

  • 150g tender beef (sirloin or ribeye), thinly sliced

  • Beef Marinade:

    • 1 tbsp soy sauce

    • 1 tsp rice wine or mirin

    • 1/2 tsp minced garlic

    • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

    • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

    • 1 teaspoon of sugar

  • Sauce ingredients (Soy Sauce mixture):

    • 1 tbsp soy sauce

    • 1 tbsp brown sugar

    • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

    • Pinch of salt

  • 1/2 cup baby spinach, blanched and chopped

  • 1 carrot

  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced

  • 3-4 shiitake mushrooms

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced

  • Sugar

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Vegetable oil for cooking

  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Before cooking, marinate the beef. Coat the thinly sliced beef in the beef marinade ingredients and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.

  2. Thinly slice the green onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and shiitake mushrooms. Also, chop the blanched spinach. Try to keep the vegetables uniform in size to ensure even cooking and an aesthetically appealing meal.

  3. Cook the sweet potato noodles in boiling water until they reach a tender yet slightly chewy consistency. After boiling, drain and rinse the noodles under cold water to avoid them becoming mushy. Use kitchen scissors to cut the noodles into manageable lengths for easier stir-frying.

  4. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and stir-fry the marinated beef until it's thoroughly cooked. Once cooked, take the beef out of the pan and set it aside.

  5. Using the same pan, add another tablespoon of oil if needed. Sauté the minced garlic, then add the sliced vegetables (excluding the spinach) into the pan. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the vegetables reach a tender-crisp texture. Finally, add the blanched spinach to the pan and continue stir-frying for an additional minute.

  6. Combine the soy sauce mixture in a small bowl.

  7. Next, in a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked noodles, cooked vegetables, beef, and soy sauce mixture. Make sure the sauce evenly coats the noodles and vegetables. Adjust the seasoning by adding more soy sauce, sugar, or salt if needed.

  8. After thoroughly mixing all the ingredients, transfer the Japchae to a serving dish. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top for garnish. These seeds add a nutty flavor and a bit of crunch to the dish.

Innovative Recipes Using Sweet Potato Noodles

A spicy Korean beef soup which includes sweet potato starch noodles.

Korean sweet potato starch noodles offer not just flavor and nutrition but also remarkable versatility. They can be used in various dishes like stir-fries, salads, soups, and noodle bowls, showcasing the many creative possibilities of incorporating sweet potato noodles into diverse culinary creations.

For instance, you can add sweet potato noodles into clear or broth-based soups for a hearty and comforting meal. You can experiment by adding them to chicken soup, vegetable broth, or spicy noodle soups for an exciting flavor variation. These noodles soak up the soup's flavors while maintaining their chewy texture, providing a delightful contrast to the broth and accompanying ingredients. Or, you can try making a bibimbap (Korean rice bowl) using marinated beef or tofu, assorted vegetables, kimchi, and a fried egg on top of sweet potato noodles instead of rice.

Vegetarian and Vegan Options with Sweet Potato Noodles

Packed with nutrients and offering a gluten-free option, sweet potato noodles are a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into vegetarian and vegan dishes with ease. Whether you follow a plant-based diet or simply enjoy meatless meals, there are many recipes and adaptations using these noodles that cater to vegetarian and vegan preferences.

Korean dish japchae made with tofu.

To give a vegan spin to the classic Korean favorite japchae, swap out the meat for tofu or tempeh. Stir-fry sweet potato noodles alongside a vibrant mix of vegetables, then combine everything in a flavorful sauce crafted from soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar to create your own vegan japchae. Another vegetarian option you can create is a refreshing and nutritious cold noodle salad. Simply add cooked sweet potato noodles along with fresh vegetables, aromatic herbs, and a tangy dressing. Include ingredients like cucumber, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots and cilantro to infuse the dish with vibrant hues and enticing flavors.

Pairing Sweet Potato Noodles with Proteins

Sweet potato noodles, with their delightful texture and nutritional benefits, serve as a versatile canvas for creating balanced and satisfying meals. Pairing these noodles with proteins not only enhances the flavor profile but also contributes to a well-rounded diet.

For those who enjoy red meat, lean cuts of beef or pork can be paired with sweet potato noodles for a satisfying meal. Lean poultry options like chicken and turkey provide high-quality protein while seafood options like shrimp, scallops, and fish fillets offer a light and delicate protein source that complements sweet potato noodles beautifully.

Tofu and tempeh, both plant-based sources of protein, are excellent choices to pair with sweet potato noodles especially for vegans and vegetarians. Tofu, with its neutral flavor, absorbs marinades and sauces well, adding a savory element to the dish. conversely, tempeh offers a nutty flavor and firm texture, making it a hearty addition to noodle bowls or stir-fries.

Surasang Purple Sweet Potato Starch Noodle

These Korean Surasang glass noodles create a fun purple color instead of the typical "clear" color offered. Using only sweet potato starch allows the flavor of this root vegetable to shine through. Stir fry is a popular cooking method for dishes like japchae, though they are versatile. Try these bright noodles with a peanut sauce for a creamy, slightly sweet dish.

$5.99
12 oz

Sweet Potato Noodles in Fusion Cuisine

Sweet potato noodles have become a global favorite in fusion cuisine, lending their unique texture and flavor to a wide range of traditional and contemporary dishes.

In the realm of Asian-inspired fusion cooking, sweet potato noodles often take center stage as a delightful substitute for conventional noodles in popular dishes like Pad Thai, stir-fries bursting with vibrant vegetables, and nourishing noodle bowls. Their chewy consistency and subtly sweet undertones perfectly complement the array of Asian seasonings such as soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger, creating a harmonious fusion of flavors.

Beyond Asian cuisine, sweet potato noodles make a splash in Mexican fusion delights like sweet potato noodle tacos or burritos. They offer a robust and satisfying base alongside ingredients like hearty black beans, creamy avocado slices, zesty salsa, and a refreshing cilantro-lime dressing. This fusion marvel seamlessly blends the bold flavors of Mexican cuisine with the enticing essence of Asian ingredients, resulting in a culinary experience that delights the taste buds with every bite.

Where to Buy Sweet Potato Noodles

Sweet potato starch noodles.

Are you eager to dive into creating sweet potato noodle dishes but unsure where to find authentic Korean sweet potato noodles? Look no further! Online stores like Bokksu Market specialize in Asian food products, including sweet potato noodles, conveniently delivered to your doorstep.

Alternatively, in-store shopping at local Asian grocery stores is another excellent option. These supermarkets typically stock authentic sweet potato noodles from various regions with distinct flavors and textures. Health food stores or organic markets may also carry high-quality sweet potato noodles as part of their alternative pasta options.

Celebrating the Versatility of Sweet Potato Noodles

A plate of japchae, served hot.

In conclusion, sweet potato noodles are a culinary gem, offering numerous benefits ranging from their nutritional value to their versatility in traditional and fusion cooking styles. While they hold a prominent place in Korean cuisine, showcased in iconic dishes like Japchae, these noodles also harmonize wonderfully with inventive fusion creations that blend diverse global tastes. Whether you're a fan of traditional Asian cuisine or love to mix and match global flavors, sweet potato noodles present boundless opportunities for creating delicious meals right in your own kitchen

For those looking to purchase high-quality sweet potato noodles, look no further than Bokksu Market! At Bokksu Market, we take pride in curating a diverse range of authentic Asian ingredients, including sweet potato noodles that uphold standards for quality and flavors. With access to such high-quality ingredients, you're well-equipped to begin an exciting culinary adventure brimming with delicious sweet potato noodle creations.


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Sweet Potato Noodles: Exploring Korean Glass Noodles & Japchae

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