Japchae, jabchae, chapchae, chop chae, or chap chae (Korean: 잡채) is a Korean dish made from sweet potato noodles (called dangmyeon, Korean: 당면), stir fried in sesame oil with vegetables (typically thinly sliced carrots, onion, spinach, and mushrooms), sometimes served with beef, and flavoured with soy sauce, and sweetened with sugar. It is usually served garnished with sesame seeds and slivers of chili. It may be served hot or cold.
This dish is served at Korean parties and special occasions, with seasonal vegetables added.
Japchae is most commonly served as a side dish, though it may be a main dish. It is often served on a bed of rice; with rice it is known as japchae-bap (잡채밥), bap (밥) meaning "rice."
The name japchae comprises the two hanja words jap (hangul: 잡, hanja: 雜, literally "mixed and stirred") and chae (hangul: 채, hanja: 菜, literally "vegetables"). Therefore, japchae literally means "a mixture of vegetables."
Japchae was first made in the early 17th century, when the Joseon Dynasty was reigning in the Korean peninsula. When King Gwanghaegun hosted a big party at his palace, one of his lieges, Yi Chung, created this dish to please the king’s palate. The king liked it so much that he rewarded his liege by promoting him to the position of hojo panseo (hangul: 호조판서, hanja: 戶曹判書, equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury). At the time, japchae was made without noodles, and with thinly shredded vegetables and mushrooms, such as cucumber, mu (daikon), and pyogo (shiitake) mushroom. Since the early 20th century, dangmyeon (cellophane noodles made from sweet potato starch) has become an integral and primary ingredient of this variety of japchae.
Varieties without noodles
- Gochu japchae (고추잡채), made with shredded fresh green chili pepper and vegetables
- Buchu japchae (부추잡채), made with Korean chives
- Kongnamul japchae (콩나물잡채), made with kongnamul (soybean sprouts)
- Haemul japchae (해물잡채), made with seafood and vegetables
- Beoseot japchae (버섯잡채), made with mushrooms
Varieties served in Korean royal court cuisine
- Tangpyeongchae (탕평채), made with nokdumuk (mung bean starch jelly), sukjunamul (mung bean sprouts), watercress, red pepper, and various types of seaweed
- Gyeojachae (겨자채)
- Jokchae (족채), made with shredded jokpyeon (cow-hoof jelly) and vegetables
- Wolgwachae (월과채), made with zucchini, beef, pyogo (shiitake), chapssal bukkumi (찹쌀부꾸미, a pan-fried variety of tteok made of glutinous rice flour), and other vegetables. "Wolgwa" (월과) refers to the Oriental pickling melon (Cucumis melo var. conomon) in Korean language. Nowadays zucchini has largely replaced wolgwa for making the dish due to the latter vegetable's rarity.