Since I started to explore Asian cuisine (at least 15 years ago), I have tasted a big array of noodles. Whether made of buckwheat, rice, mung bean or wheat, I am fond of all them, but my absolute number one are the Korean dangmyeon, the main ingredient of the famous japchae. I buy them in huge bags and cook them more often than any other noodle kind, but, in spite of that, I have never prepared them Korean way. I have recently been talking to Sue (from My Korean Kitchen) about the non-traditional – though very simple – way I treat these noodles and decided to share it with you.
Dangmyeon (당면), also spelled dang myun or tang myun, fall into the category of cellophane noodles. They are made of sweet potato starch and are easy to spot in Asian grocery shops: they have a characteristic (not very attractive) brown paper, greyish colour. Why do I like them so much? First of all, they are slightly thicker, chewier than other transparent noodles and have the “bounciness” I am very fond of. Obviously, like all the transparent noodles, these also marvellously absorb the flavours from sauces and seasonings. What makes them really different is that they actually have their own mellow, delicate taste I have never experienced in any type of cellophane noodles.
The first time I bought dangmyeon I didn’t cook Korean at all, so I simply started to treat them like other Asian noodles, i.e. stir-frying them with randomly chosen ingredients and sauces and it has stayed this way. One day my husband convinced me to add some Chinese dark soy sauce in order to obtain a more powerful, deeper flavour. It was a sensational discovery and I strongly encourage you to try it. Whatever meat or vegetables you include in the stir-fry, the deep, mushroomy flavour of dark soy sauce is a terrific pairing for mellow, slightly chewy and bouncy noodles.
TIPS: Apart from the sauce, the meat and vegetables vary according to my mood and, more often, to what I find in the fridge, so feel free to substitute them as you wish.
Chinese dark soy sauce has a very dark brown colour, it is thicker than light soy sauce and it’s sold in every single Asian shop I know. Usually the same Chinese brand carries both light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Sometimes the bottles look almost identical, so pay attention to the description.
Chinese sweet potato starch noodles also exist, but the ones I have tasted lacked the chewiness and bounciness I appreciate in dangmyeon so much.
Preparation: 25 minutes
Ingredients (serves one):
50 g chicken breast cut into strips or bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon sake
half a medium bell pepper
a small courgette
(one fresh chili, sliced)
50 g Korean sweet potato starch noodles
1 small clove garlic
1/5 cm fresh ginger
1 small onion
1 tablespoon Chinese dark soy sauce
1 clove garlic (grated or crushed)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake (or other rice wine)
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon corn starch
Cut up the chicken breast into bite-sized strips.
Grate the ginger.
Combine with the chicken with 1 teaspoon sake and ginger.
Boil about a liter of water, pour into a big bowl or pan. Let the noodles soak in freshly boiled water, covered, until they are soft (it usually takes about 15 minutes, but some people prefer them much softer, so test them every now and then).
Slice the onion, cut the bell pepper into thin strips.
Cut the courgette into very thin lengthwise julienne strips (a julienne grater is the best here).
Warm some oil on a pan or a wok.
Drain the chicken pieces, dry them with paper towel and fry them.
When the chicken starts browning, add the onion and after 5 minutes add the bell pepper and the chili, if you use it, still stirring.
In a small bowl combine the sauce ingredients.
Drain the noodles and put into the wok together with the julienned courgette.
Stir well all the ingredients. Add the sauce and keep on stirring until the sauce starts thickening.
Serve sprinkled with some chopped green onion (not obligatory).