Japan Eats

Japan Eats Podcast, Episode 22: “Is that gochujang in your hand luggage?”

This week we get all hot and bothered talking about Tokyo’s love affair with Korean food.

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Recipe: Japchae

Japchae is a popular Korean dish which mixes stir-fried cellophane noodles with beef and vegetables.

In Japan, cellophane noodles are referred to as harusame (literally “spring rain.”) Made from either green beans or sweet potato, they are commonly used in deep fried spring rolls, salads, or as an ingredient in Chinese style soup dishes.

To make japchae, you don’t need to have all the ingredients, but a combination of beef, onion, carrot, cucumber and shiitake mushrooms works best. You may also experiment by adding your own favorite vegetables (I sometimes add zucchini).



Ingredients (serves four)

  • 80 g harusame noodles
  • 50 g onion
  • 50 g carrot
  • 100 g cucumber
  • 50 g shiitake mushrooms
  • 50 g green pepper
  • 50 g red pepper
  • 50 g sliced beef
  • 100 g spinach


  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of finely minced green onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of ground sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of grated garlic
  • 1-2 pinches of pepper


  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of grounded sesame seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce


Cut the sliced beef into thin strips. Next, cut away the shiitake stems and slice them into thin strips.

Mix the ingredients of the marinade and marinate the beef and shiitake mushrooms for 20-30 minutes.

Place a pot with water on a high heat. When it comes to the boil, cook the spinach for 30 seconds, then place it into a bowl of cold water. Squeeze the spinach and remove any liquid. Cut into strips 3cm in length.

Next, slide the cucumber into thin strips and place these into a bowl together with a pinch of salt and mix. When they have become soft, remove the moisture.

Cut the carrot, green and red pepper into thin strips. Now slice the onion thinly in the direction of the grain.

Place a pot with water on a high heat. Once it has come to the boil, cook the harusame one minute short of the directions on the package. Once the harusame is cooked, drain the hot water and cut them roughly into bite sized pieces. Place the noodles into a bowl, mix with the sauce and allow them to cool.

Pour a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a pan and stir-fry the onion, carrot, green pepper, red pepper and cucumber together with 2-3 pinches of salt and pepper. Now pour into the bowl of harusame.

Using the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and stir-fry the marinated beef and shiitake mushrooms with the sauce and then pour these ingredients into the bowl of harusame.

Finally, mix all the ingredients. Serve with ground sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Nabe party!

As winter approaches, Mieko Higano shares her recipe for kimchi nabe.

Kimchi nabe is just the thing for winter. Not only does this spicy hotpot taste great, many believe it can help ward-off colds and other ailments. In Japan, its common for friends to gather and cook some kind of nabe together.

And best thing about this dish is that its not about exact amounts of particular ingredients – just throw what you like in the nabe and enjoy!

Nira (chives) and Enoki mushrooms in the nabe.

Nira (chives) and Enoki mushrooms in the nabe.

‘Luxury’ version (serves 4 people)

  • Japanese ‘nabe’ (hotpot) with a diameter of roughly 25cm and depth of 8cm
  • 5 cups of water
  • 300g kimchi
  • 200g sliced pork (butabara style is best)
  • 350g of tofu
  • 3 to 5 shiitake mushrooms
  • 180g enoki mushrooms
  • 1 negi (Japanese onion)
  • 1/2 package of nira (Chinese chives)
  • 5 tablespoons of miso
  • 2 tablespoons of kochujan
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of Red pepper powder
  • 1 clove of grated garlic

Before you begin cooking, slice the kimchi, pork and tofu into  into bite-sized pieces.  Be careful chopping the kimchi as you’ll have juice left over on the cutting board.  Be sure to add this liquid to the nabe, not just throw it away.

Next, divide the shiitake mushrooms into halves. Cut away the root section of the enoki mushrooms, and slice these too in half (if desired – I prefer not to). The negi should be cut diagonally into slices 1cm thick, and the nira into 10cm long sections (or whatever length fits into your hotpot).

Now put 1 to 2 tablespoons of sesame oil into the hotpot and cook the sliced pork together with about half the kimchi.  Once the meat begins to change color, add 5 cups of water, the rest of the kimchi and all the spices. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes (1 to 2 minutes after it has begun to boil).

Now add the tofu, shiitake, negi, enoki and cook for a few more minutes, until the tofu becomes hot.

Finally, put the nira into the nabe, boil for 1 minute and turn the heat off with the lid still on the hotpot. The idea is to cook the nira with the steam coming off the rest of the mixture.

‘Simple’ version (serves 2 people)

  • Japanese ‘nabe’ (hotpot) with a diameter of roughly 18cm and depth of 6cm
  • 2 or 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 150g kimchi
  • 1/2 tofu
  • 100g enoki mushrooms
  • 1/4 to 1/2 a package of nira
  • 2 tablespoons of miso
  • 1 tablespoon of kochujan
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper powder
  • 1/2 to 1 clove of garlic


Follow the instructions as per the “Luxury” version, minus the directions for cooking the pork. Be sure to add the tofu, shiitake and nira last.

A few extra tips

  • I always use my monther’s homemade miso, but the usual miso you buy at the Japanese supermarket is also fine to use.
  • As just about every Korean cookbook will tell you, try to use old kimchi. It should taste almost sour.
  • Udon noodles can be added to the ‘luxury’ version, space permitting.