Korean Japchae

Chinese New Year was a blast! For some reason I actually am usually apprehensive about CNY, mainly because I have to face up to a bunch of relatives who will usually comment on 1. my weight gain 2. why my kids are not achieving academically 3. why I am so busy (subtext of why I don’t visit so often). Secondly, most CNY gatherings we sit down and try to drum up some conversation with people we aren’t so familiar with and the awkward pauses are sometimes long and frequent. And the ultimate reason is that I am actually introverted by nature and it takes tremendous effort to go and make small talk to people I don’t really know. 

But interestingly enough, this CNY was special because I found I could listen to different ones and gift the, with my attention. With the simple act of listening I could validate their lives and the struggles that they were going through, and I discovered by listening deeply, that our conversations deepened and we were no longer operating in superficial nothingness. So visiting was not painful even though we still had to smile at the occasional inane statement. I felt that there was less of that overwhelming urge to fly out of the country during the CNY period (hey, it was the first time in 10 years that I was not on call over CNY ok?!?).

Of course the other great thing about CNY is that I get to cook a little. I don’t usually host meals at my place as CNY is the domain of the elders in the family, but I got to contribute a couple of dishes for my family’s reunion dinner. I personally love Korean Japchae which is usually made from sweet potato starch noodles and also has a significant amount of sugar in it. The great thing is that shirataki noodles makes for a great substitute and the only difference is that because shirataki noodles are quite flavorless, you have to amp up the soy sauce and sesame oil to replicate the flavors.

The other great thing about this dish is that it is a universal crowd pleaser and ticks off the requisite noodle dish for a Chinese meal. I was surprised last year when I didn’t make this dish at one of the family meals that somebody actually missed it and asked for it. So here it is – one of Korea’s best loved dishes in low carb form.

Clockwise from bottom left: shirataki noodles, cooked ingredients prior to mixing, vegetables stir fry, beef stir fry

Low Carb Korean Japchae

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 8 packets of Shirataki noodles 
  • 400 grams of beef 
  • 1 bunch of spinach 
  • 1 large carrot 
  • 1 medium sized onion 
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water
  • 1 package of white/brown mushrooms, sliced thinly 
  • 1/2 packet of wood ear fungus (optional) 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 7-8 spring onions, cut into 2½ – 3 inch long pieces 
  • soy sauce (see amounts in marinades below)
  • sesame oil (see amounts in marinades below)
  • sugar substitute (see amounts in marinades below)
  • pepper (see amounts in marinades below)
  • 1 tbsp white sesame seeds 
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil 

Beef Marinade

  • 2 ½ tbsp soy sauce 
  • 1 tsp sesame oil 
  • 1 tsp sugar substitute 
  • 1 tsp rice cooking wine 
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic. 

Noodle Marinade

  • 4 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp of sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp of sugar substitute

Spinach Marinade

  • ½ tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp sesame oil


  1. Soak dried shitake mushrooms in hot water for ½ hour until soft. Squeeze the water out of them and slice thinly. 
  2. Julienne the carrot into thin matchstick-shaped pieces 5 cm long.. 
  3. Cut the onion in half and slice the onion thinly. 
  4. Prepare spinach by washing and cutting off the roots. Do not cut the spinach into pieces yet. 
  5. Toast sesame seeds on a dry non-stick pan. 
  6. Slice beef into thin strips and marinate for at least 15 – 20 minutes.
  7. Rinse 8 packets of shirataki noodles in cold running water and drain. Dry fry on a non-stick pan in batches until all the water has evaporated and the noodles look white. Mix 4 tbsp of soy sauce and 3 tbsp of sesame oil and 2 tbsp of sugar substitute well till the sugar dissolves. Mix the sauce into the shirataki noodles and set aside. 
  8. In a pot of boiling water, add a bunch of spinach and stir it gently for 1 minute. Then take it out and rinse it in cold water 3 times. Remove any grit or dead leaves thoroughly while rinsing. Squeeze it gently to get the water out, then cut it into 5 cm pieces. Add soy sauce and sesame oil and mix into the spinach and place it onto the large bowl.  
  9. On a heated pan, put a few drops of oil and your carrot strips and stir it with a spatula for 1 minute. Put it into the large bowl (don’t burn it!). 
  10. Place a few drops of oil on the pan and add the sliced onion. Stir it until the onion looks translucent. Put it into the large bowl with your carrots. 
  11. Place a few drops of oil on the pan and add the sliced white mushrooms. Stir fry the mushrooms till slightly soft only and then put it in the large bowl. 
  12. Place a few drops of oil on the pan and add your green onions. Stir for 30 seconds and put it into the large bowl. 
  13. Stir fry beef strips and sliced shitake mushrooms and wood ear fungus with its marinade. Stir for 3-4 minutes till the beefis just cooked. 
  14. Add the shirataki noodles with another 1 tsp of pepper and stir fry for another 1-2 minutes, then add all the other ingredients and stir fry to mix well. Add soy sauce or pepper to taste. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds on top. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Serve hot. 


4 thoughts on “Korean Japchae

  1. This was delicious. Just started out onlow carb journey 2 wks ago. I added your recipe info at eat your books site and rated it. Will check your recipes.

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