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Table Manners

 

 

 

Definition

 

Japchae is a Korean dish which is popular at feasts or during festive days. It is made by putting pan-fried vegetables into sweet potato noodles (called dangmyeon) and stirring them on a pan. Originally, it was one of the palace foods served by mixing the steamed vegetables of thinly-sliced cucumber and radish, bean sprouts and ballonflowers only. These days, dangmyeon is a major ingredient of Japchae.

 

 

Origin

 

There is an episode as an origin of Japchae. During the period of King Gwanghaegun in Joseon Dynasty (Reign 1608~1623), one day, king was tired of eating various kinds of loyal delicacies. He asked his subjects, “Isn’t there any better tasty food?” Then, an official named Lee Choong has prepared and served Japchae. King was very delighted with the taste of Japchae and offered him a high position.

Japchae is categorized into Mushroom Japchae, Pine mushroom Japchae and Korean leek Japchae depending on major ingredients. The name, Japchae, literally means a mixture of vegetables ('Jap' means a mixture, and 'chae' means vegetables). In Joseon Dynasty, it meant the mixing of various raw and cooked vegetables in sliced shape or sometimes it meant the mixing of main ingredients such as steamed and sliced fish, jellyfish and lotus root.

In palace, there were a variety of japchaes available such as Japchae with shredded cow foot jelly (Jokchae), Japchae with Mung-bean jelly mixed with beef and vegetables (Tangpyeongchae), Japchae in mustard sauce (Gyeojachae) and Japchae with vegetables and sliced fruits (Wolgwachae).

 

 

Characteristics of Japchae

 

Originally, Japchae was made from vegetables only but, from the beginning of 1900 when sweet potato noodle was developed, the sweet potato noodle was used as one of the ingredients. It eventually became a key ingredient, as people liked the sweet potato noodles better than vegetables in Japchae.

These days, people are enjoying a variety to japchaes by adding other ingredients in the plain Japchae, such as seafood, sliced potatoes or sometimes mushroom only without other vegetables. Japchae is a healthy food with sweet potato noodles, various vegetables, mushrooms and beef, after pan-frying them separately. It has abundant well-balanced nutrients as it looks good and delicious.

There are a variety of Japchaes available such as Ballonflower Japchae, Bean curd Japchae, Kimchi Japchae and Rice cake Japchae. As such, Japchae has different names when it uses other ingredients instead of sweet potato noodles. Japchae has one drawback that it is easy to be spoiled. Therefore, it is wise to cook it only for one time meal to enjoy its fresh tastes.