Category Archives: Blog

Tracing The Rise of the Korean Japchae

Journey from Vegetable Dish to Noodles and Beef

A colorful dish, the japchae (or chapch’ae), is an ever-present classic in many Korean celebrations. One cannot miss its eye-catching appeal on the dinner table. The dish is not just noodles and vegetables, but an experience in a travesty of flavors and aromas so unique to Korean cooking.

Japchae means “mixture of vegetables,” and it describes the dish and its method of preparation. Generally, the term refers to vegetables (namul) stir-fried with meat. To prepare the dish, glass noodles made from sweet potato starch (dangmyeon) are stir-fried in sesame oil together with beef and thinly sliced veggies. Soy sauce and a touch of sugar season the dish. But the japchae we know now wasn’t like this when it first began.

In the 17th century, during the Joseon dynasty, the japchae didn’t have noodles or meat. It was invented by one of the king’s subjects for a royal celebration. Nonetheless, the king enjoyed it, but what ingredients were used weren’t mentioned. At the time, noodles or beef were not part of the Korean diet. But vegetables were. Vegetables were central to Korean cooking owing to the influence of Buddhism. Killing cattle for food was prohibited in accordance with Buddhist beliefs which were the beliefs of the dynasty preceding Joseon.

Buddhism also reflected the food tradition of Koreans which involves combining different vegetables in a single dish to balance tastes, textures, and colors. The five elements of East Asian cosmology features five colors – green, red, yellow, white and black. The japchae satisfies all the colors with Korean ingredients, with spinach, carrots, mushrooms, and egg and egg white.

Beef, which was rare in Korean cuisine and only consumed by the royals and aristocracy, became an added delicacy only much, much later, towards the 20th century. Today, beef is an integral part of the cuisine and very much Korean, especially grilled marinated beef. It is otherwise known now as Korean BBQ.

And where did the noodles come from? It was the Mongols who brought both noodles and beef to Korea. Noodles were of wheat and buckwheat at first, and later, when tubers came from Japan in the 1760s, noodles were made out of sweet potatoes. Noodles stayed to become a main ingredient for japchae, signifying long life.

Celebrating with Japchae at UW Seattle

We serve the famous japchae here in UW Seattle. Try out this delicacy with our own pork, noodles and veggies rendition.

US Love Affair With Korean Food: by UW Korean Restaurant

The American Future of Korean Food Products

After Japan and China, the third biggest market for Korean food products is the United States. That is according to Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp, Korea’s leading organization for the globalization of Korean agricultural and fishery products. The trend was observed to be on the rise at the rate of 10% average yearly in the last 10 years. The export of Korean food products like kimchi, gochujang and seaweed are already growing and gaining foothold in the American market signaling that other products can be on the way to becoming mainstream in the US.

Recently, at the 2-day September K-FOOD FAIR New York, a juried collection of more than 28 exporters and 100 plus unique products from Korea were showcased to American attendees. It was organized by the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs. It paved the way for direct meetings and sampling opportunities that were promising enough to merit its annual holding from hence.

There were new and interesting food and beverage products, that were also health-giving and delicious, that retail stores, restaurants and other distribution channels can introduce to American consumers.

And how did Korean food imports become so popular in the US market? Consumers have become familiar with Korean eats from restaurant experiences, buying from food trucks and watching television cooking shows. They have developed the taste for Korean tacos, Korean fried chicken and bibimbap. Young children bring along Korean snacks to share in their lunch boxes. Also, more people are discovering the health benefits of Korean ingredients, like kimchi, red ginseng, aloe drinks, Korean pears, Korean mushrooms, Hamyang bitter melon products, among others.

Restaurant chefs in New York, in particular, use Korean base ingredients well, such as fermented soybean paste and chili paste, seaweed, tofu, dry-aged persimmon, and a variety of kimchi to recreate new dishes. Chefs discover the Korean techniques of fermentation, aging and pickling ingredients, and then using those techniques to craft new creations, going beyond typical Korean dishes. Now, due to the adventurous taste and the inclination to acquire new tastes and concepts, Korean food makers are targeting millennials, they who easily connect to new products and experiences.

Learning To Love Korean in UW Seattle

One of the best ways to get introduced to Korean culture and cuisine is to try out popular neighborhood restaurants that serve a variety of Korean selections. Stop by your UW Korean spot, the Korean Tofu House, to first-hand experience kimchi, bibimbap, tofu, and barbecue. It’s not to be forgotten.

Little Known Details About Korean Foods

Background Check of Your Favorite Korean Dishes

How much do you really know about the most popular Korean foods apart from its intoxicating flavors, healthy ingredients and well-known spiciness?
Let’s look at few interesting background tidbits.

Rice. It is the biggest crop produced in South Korea. It is central to Korean cuisine. Bap is the Korean word for rice, describing meals or food in general. The starchy, sticky as glue staple is equivalent to the American bread and butter.

Banchan (Korea’s equivalent to tapas) are side dishes, as many as 8 or more at the table. Small portions are served, almost always refillable, but meant to be all consumed. Korean custom is that you should always leave the table full.

Bulgogi literally means ‘fire meat.’ The beef or pork is marinated and grilled over an open flame for intense flavor. It’s also called Korean barbeque. It used to be traditionally prepared especially for the wealthy and the nobility.

Japchae means ‘mix vegetables’ in Korean. It was first introduced in the imperial court of the of the Joseon dynasty, created by a king at the time. Originally just vegetables and mushrooms, the dish is now prepared with stir-fried glass noodles.

Man-doo, Korean-style dumplings, are considered symbols of good luck during lunar New Year festivities. Did you know that the dumplings are not of Asian roots, but actually originated from Mesopotamia?

Tdeukguk, or Tteokguk, literally translates to rice cake soup. It’s a traditional Korean New Year celebration dish. It is customary to eat it to get older.

Loving Popular Korean Foods in Seattle

Whatever the background of your favorite Korean dish, enjoy the flavors and textures of our popular selections at Korean Tofu House. We love tradition and we know you do, too.