Korean Japchae  

While young, I felt I could pass for white. I look like my Korean mother, so this is amusing. (My dad is a nice, hilarious white guy.) Growing up in little Mississippi communities in the 1970s, I aspired to be all-American like my peers.   

I often lied about having an Asian mom who kept our house smelling like kimchi, dried anchovies, and seaweed soups. Instead, I praised her chicken-fried steak and gravy.  

That changed in middle school when I had a sleepover and developed the confidence to share my mom's japchae with my classmates. This classic Korean meal of slippery glass noodles with pork and vegetables was my childhood favorite (and still is!).  

The chewy noodles, nutty sesame oil and savory soy sauce, sweetness, and garlicky wilted spinach were always my favorites. My mom cooked a big quantity, so there were leftovers in the fridge.   

They weren't for my sleepover pals because I didn't want to provide Korean food. Then I did. I had the bravery to introduce my pals to japchae in the middle of the night, amid movies and munchies.One friend exclaimed, “Eww, that looks like worms,” upon seeing it.  

Ann, breathe—this food is great. After some mild persuasion, the hungry girls accepted a taste after smelling the sesame and garlic. Loved it! Even cold from the fridge!   


10 ounces finely sliced boneless rib eye steak divided 4 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce Split 2 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar 3 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided   2 minced garlic cloves (2 tablespoons), divided 10-ounce fresh baby spinach (10 cups)  

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided 12 ounces uncooked Korean sweet potato or mung bean noodles 3 tablespoons canola oil, split   1 1/3 cups 3-inch-julienned carrots  

1/2-inch-sliced white and light green scallion bottoms Cup 1-inch-sliced dark green scallion tops 2 cups finely sliced shiitake caps 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds (optional)  


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