Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Dark Soy Sauce


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


tablespoon Chinese dark soy sauce

clove garlic (grated or crushed)

tablespoon light soy sauce

tablespoon sake (or other rice wine)

tablespoons water

teaspoon corn starch

(green onion)

Cut up the chicken breast into bite-sized strips.

Grate the ginger.

Combine with the chicken with 1 teaspoon sake and ginger.

Put aside.

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).

50 Replies to “Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Dark Soy Sauce”

  1. You may not believe this, but Chinese soy sauce is exotic to the Japanese. I have never used it…
    I wonder if your dish is supposed to be a side dish or a main dish.

    1. Hi, Hiroyuki. I know! I remember how my Japanese friend was surprised to see me cook with it! She also told me she had never seen it. It’s very dark and thick, almost black. And very strong in taste but not as salty as light soy sauce, so it’s never used alone but always with light soy sauce (I think).
      Haha! It’s a main course according to Western rules (there are carbs and chicken meat), but difficult to say for a Japanese meal. All in one? (There are vegetables too).

      1. According to the Japanese rules (laugh), your dish is definitely a side dish, and more specifically, a fukusai (副菜) rather than a shusai (主菜). I consider my harusame (cellophane) salad to be a fukusai.
        A decent Japanese meal consists of a bowl of rice + a bowl of soup + three side dishes. The three side dishes are typically one shusai (meat, fish, etc.) and two fukusai (vegetable, seaweed, etc.).

        1. Thank you, Hiroyuki. I still cannot get used to the difference… What for one is the main dish, for another is just side dish… (I think about a bowl of rice!). In this case isn’t my dish shusai and fukusai in one? 😉 (both vegetables and meat in the same bowl: “shufukusai” maybe? just joking!).

            1. Thank you for the links. I am always willing to learn more about the Japanese cuisine (and I keep on discovering new things all the time!).

  2. What an interesting noodle Sissi, are you familiar with Seritaki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirataki_noodles — I wonder if it’s a similar noodle? Seritaki is also made of some sort of Asian Yam (not sure if that’s the same as our Yams). The one thing I can’t stand with Seritaki is the fishy smell and the a slightly less annoyance is the spongy texture (not to be mistaken with rubbery, which I prefer). I will keep my eyes open for this noodle, it looks like I might enjoy it more than Seritaki (I sometimes use Seritaki when I am eating a low carb diet, it has 0 carbs). The recipe sounds perfect for my taste as well. I will bookmark this lovely and unusual (for me) recipe for a dinner party in a couple of weeks (except I’ll have to sub either tofu or shrimp for the chicken as one person is a vegetarian). I can see serving this in a small butter lettuce cup on a large plate, drizzled with a reduced soy sauce (and honey perhaps?). I know this couple will love it! Thanks for the inspiration.
    Thanks for your lovely comments on my blog, we’re still unseasonably cold in Toronto but the foliage doesn’t seem to care which is very good because cold and no flowers would make me so unhappy. Today is sunny (thank goodness) and hopefully will reach 10°C, but this morning at 6:30 it was only 2°C!

    1. Thanks a lot, Eva. I am so happy to learn you eat the famous almost 0 kcal noodles. I have written about them three times (check this post http://www.withaglass.com/?p=6910). It’s called “shirataki” (in Japanese) or ito konnyaku depending on the way the are prepared (or simply konnyaku noodles). The plant they are made from is called “konnyaku” in Japan; they make it into different shapes, such as “gnocchi” balls called “tama konnyaku” (I use them to prepare skewers http://www.withaglass.com/?p=10061 or stir-fry http://www.withaglass.com/?p=7142), blocks or noodles. Here Japanese shops sell it all the time. I like the blocks too. Actually I always have blocks, noodles or “gnocchi” in my fridge because they keep for ages.
      Do you boil them for 15 min and then rinse them well? It does take a lot of the fishy smell but not all of it… Well, nothing is perfect 🙂 Of course, they are not as tasty as other “standard” noodles. Anyway, I agree they are perfect when one wants to save kcal.
      These noodles are really delicious (though standard kcal and carb amount, I guess).

  3. I love dangmyun also for its chewy texture! I’ve not had much luck with sauteeing these noodles, but yours look beautiful! I always just season and cook everything separately and mix them in the end. And yes, these noodles absorb flavors so nicely.

    1. Thank you so much, Amy. From what I have understood, you prepare the correct Korean dish with these noodles 😉 Not like me… I must try making the famous japchae one day for a change!

  4. Beautiful dish Sissi, and the color of those noodles is wonderful! I only occasionally dabble in Asian cuisine, so have not encountered sweet potato noodles, but the next time I’m in a local toko I’ll definitely going to look for them! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Gourmantine. I’m glad you are not put off by their dark colour. These noodles might be a bit more difficult to find but it depends on the shop of course. Good luck! I hope you will like them.

  5. I came back check your blog again… good I can comment now. I just wanted to say I love your photograph! Beautiful! The recipe is interesting. I have never used the noodle before but like to experiment after seeing this recipe.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and compliments. I’m sorry you have had problems with commenting. I have had some issues with my server for the last several days and short “cuts” of certain functions. I hope it will stop soon… Thank you for visiting once more!

  6. Sissi, you always inspire me with your beautiful Asian dishes. Your chicken superb chicken dish with the Korean sweet potato noodles sounds and looks totally incredible and delicious!

    1. Thank you so much, Elisabeth, for your kind words. I’m glad you are not scared by the dark brown colour.

  7. This post just shows that even if you have cooked the area’s food for a long time, you may know but little about certain aspects of it! My weakest link is certainly Korean and I do not even offhand know whether I have used these noodles. Do not think the local supermarkets would keep, even in this Asian food-mad country, but next time I have access to an Asian store, shall certainly try and find! Thanks heaps 🙂 !

    1. You might have eaten them in a restaurant and forget, but I’m pretty sure you have never cooked them because you would certainly remember: these are the only brown paper coloured transparent noodles I know. If any of your Asian shops carries Korean food, they will have these: I know a shop which has maybe ten Korean products and these noodles are among them, so I suppose they are quite important. Do look for them! They are exceptional.

  8. I can see you are a true Asian kitchen lover Sissi! You always come up with very distinctive and extraordinary dishes. This looks simply irresistible!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. I hope you can taste these noodles one day. They are really exceptional.

  9. Oh yes, japchae is a noodle dish that will never be absent from every Korean restaurant meals we have. Using sweet potato noodles is very interesting and the dark color of the dish looks very handsome. Your use of the light colored bowl and its design goes really well with the instense color of the dish. Very well done, Sissi! 🙂

    1. Ray, thank you so much for the compliments. I must admit I have never had japchae, but I will prepare it one day!

  10. Really really beautiful picture, colorful. I don’t recall eating this variety but I like rice noodles and other similar types, these sound even better.
    “characteristic (not very attractive) brown paper” – maybe thats why I never bought them, ugly unattractive wrapper:) Kidding

    1. Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies. I was afraid that dark brown sauce with these noodles would not look very appetising, so I’m glad you like it. I still wonder why I bought these noodles for the first time… I think it was my “geeky” side 😉 They were ugly and Korean, and since I didn’t cook Korean at the time… I was even more curious!

  11. wow, meandering the comments I almost feel as though I ought not comment unless I have some brilliant insights on precisely what you have made here!
    but I’ve decided to forge ahead and in all my ignorant glory say simply that this looks delish! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Kale! I’m glad the dark colour doesn’t put you off. I’m always thrilled to learn new things through comments left by my kind readers and, believe me, I also have learnt a lot thanks to the ones you have read 🙂

  12. Sissi, this is a new noodle for me…but the combination of ingredients sounds lovely! I have a feeling I’d love your dish 🙂

  13. Between you and Nami I am learning A LOT about Asian food! I haven’t cooked much with Asian noodles except for the rice noodles and certainly haven’t heard of dangmyeon, but I do love the sound of them. From your description, they are more than just a starch, they are a lot of the flavor and texture of this dish. Now I have heard of and, surprisingly so, actually used Chinese dark soy sauce. I prefer it over the regular type soy sauce and keep it in the pantry. Needless to say, your dish does look delicious and if I can find those noodles, I hope to make it! Thanks for another wonderful dish and learning experience!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ, for the compliments and for comparing me to Nami (!). I first discovered Japanese cuisine, but Korean cuisine was inevitable because of the garlicky hot and sweet flavours. Contrary to most transparent noodles, these have a bouncy consistency (a bit like Italian spaghetti al dente) and they do have a slight taste. Of course the taste of the dish depends on the sauce and seasonings because they absorb flavours, but they are still exceptional.
      I’m glad to learn you know Chinese dark sauce and like it. It’s often too strong for some delicate dishes, but these noodles can face it without any problems. Personally I prefer Japanese light soy sauce rather than Chinese, so I use it in every dish (also Chinese).

      1. Sissi, I have found for my tastes – that the Chinese dark soy works great in marinades, especially with beef which seems to hold up to it better. You are right that it is stronger, but I just use less. For me it’s like the molasses of the Orient. 🙂

        1. You are right: it’s great with beef! I always use it together with the standard soy sauce because I find the dark sauce not salty enough (but strong in another way).

  14. We love dangmyeon noodles as well Sissi. Could probably eat them by the truck load if I was 10 years younger. 🙂 Great job with the imagery here. Setting and colors are perfectly harmonious.

  15. Wow, this is the prettiest variety of cellophane noodle I have ever seen! Is it the dark soy sauce that gives the noodles their color or are they dark by nature? I’m so curious, I have never had a sweet potato noodle and it sounds both appetizing and intriguing. Your photo is so captivating too Sissi — really lovely!

    1. Hi, Kelly. Thank you so much for the compliments. I’m really flattered! The noodles are slightly greyish when dry and become even lighter when “cooked”, so the colour you see is entirely due to the dark soy sauce. I’m sure you would love these noodles.

  16. This looks stunning – and it’s good to know that the Korean dark looking packets are the best – I’ve been using ‘clean’ looking ones up now – Fish Well brand from Chongqing.
    I also deep fry any broken bits in the bottom of the packets for garnish – they puff up like cellophane noodles do, only super sized…
    Really nice site, by the way 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Doledrumdiva. I’m very happy to meet another noodle fan 🙂 I love your idea to use broken tips! It sounds sensational. I will certainly use your great tip soon. Thank you for visiting and for the compliments. I really appreciate them.

  17. Sissi, I love this picture – how you played with the colors.. Chopsticks and noodle colors, blue bowl patterns and blue napkins, and white chop stick rest and white bowl… I think it’s really a brilliant way to use the three colors and the green onion and red bell pepper give perfect accent. Sorry I should talk about this delicious food more, but I really love this photo, Sissi. I’ve been making noodles lately and I’m curious to try this recipe. 😀

    1. Nami, you make me so proud! I would have never thought this photo was good in any way… I was worried the dark brown noodles would look disgusting, so I am really flattered by your compliments. I hope you will try dark soy sauce with these noodles. They seem a perfect company.

  18. Hi Sissi, the first time I had these noodles was in japchae quite some years ago. At the time I didn’t enjoy them at all. They seemed completely indigestible and I couldn’t understand how people could enjoy these slippery things which never seemed to break up in the mouth, no matter how much you chewed them. Nowadays I love them so much and it’s one of the things I miss (it’s been so long since I had them actually now) – it’s funny how tastes change isn’t it?

    Your dish looks very tasty – colourful too – and I love the rich colour that the soy sauce gave to the noodles!

    1. Thank you, Charles. Believe it or not, I have never even tasted japchae. I just love these chewy noodles. I am sure I will love japchae too. I must prepare it one day.

  19. Hey Sissi! I finally got to see your way of using Dangmyeon. It’s very creative (and I think the ingredients you used are similar to the ingredients for Japchae, though, I can’t tell the whether the taste would be the same from the picture.) I also absolutely love the colour of it. It looks very delicious and bouncy. 🙂 Thanks for mentioning me on your post as well. Sorry, I haven’t visited your blog for a while; I’ve on a holiday and just came back. Anyway, I have to a lot of catching up reading to do now!

    1. Hi, Sue. Thank you for coming back! I hope you have had nice holidays. I thought you would be shocked by the use of Chinese dark soy sauce 😉 so I’m glad you say it’s close to the Korean dish. I must prepare one day the real Japchae.

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