For meat (optional):
- 8 ounces’ pork belly (pork shoulder), beef, or chicken, cut into 2½-inch-long strips
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons brown (or white) sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
For gyeran-jidan egg garnish (optional):
- 2 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
For seasoning sauce:
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons brown (or white) sugar
- ½ to 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
For noodles, vegetables, and mushrooms:
- 8 ounces sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon in Korean), soaked in cold water for at least for 40 minutes
- 7 or 8 dried wood ear mushrooms (mogi-beoseot), washed and soaked in cold water for at least 30 minutes
- 8 ounces king oyster mushrooms (or soaked shiitake mushroomsor white button mushrooms), sliced into long strips
- 1 large onion (8 ounces), sliced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch long and ¼-inch wide matchsticks
- 8 ounces bunch spinach, washed, with the roots cut away, and the leaves cut into 4-inch pieces
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Marinate and cook meat (optional):
- Combine your choice of meat, the soy sauce, brown (or white) sugar, and sesame oil in a bowl. Mix well by hand until the sugar is well melted. Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Heat a skillet and cook the marinated meat, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 4 to 5 minutes until cooked thoroughly.
- Remove from the heat and set aside.
Make egg garnish (optional):
- Whisk the eggs and salt in a bowl, then strain into another bowl so it’s totally smooth. Discard the stringy bits remaining in the strainer.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and swirl it around to evenly coat the skillet.
- Wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel. Turn down the heat to low and add the egg mixture to the skillet. Lift and tilt the skillet around so that the egg spreads into a large circle that covers the bottom of the skillet.
- Let it cook for a minute until the bottom of the egg pancake is lightly cooked but not brown.
- Flip the egg pancake and remove from the heat. Let it cook by the heat remaining in the skillet for a few minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
- Let the pancake cool for a few minutes, then slice it into thin strips. Cover the strips with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.
Make seasoning sauce:
- Combine the soy sauce, brown (or white) sugar, ground black pepper, and garlic in a bowl and mix well with a spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Cover and set aside.
Put the japchae together in the pot:
- Drain the wood ear mushrooms and put them on your cutting board. Cut off the tough stems and discard them. Cut the caps into bite-size pieces and put them into the pot.
- Add the king oyster mushrooms, carrot, and onion to the pot.
- Add ¼ cup vegetable oil and ¼ cup water to the pot. Mix well everything in the pot with both hands so that all the vegetables and mushrooms are nicely coated with oil. This will not only prevent the ingredients from turning brown from the seasoning sauce, but will also keep them from burning when you cook.
- Spread the spinach over top in an even layer.
- Drain the noodles and cut them into 5- to 6-inch lengths with scissors. Place them on top of the spinach in the pot.
- Drizzle the seasoning sauce on top of the noodles.
- Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
- Open the lid and stir and gently toss all the ingredients with a wooden spoon and tongs for 1 to 2 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the noodles are nicely cooked and shiny.
- Add the cooked meat (if using), 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. Gently toss the mixture so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Transfer to a large platter.