Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)

Japchae, a popular Korean dish, features sweet potato starch noodles. The unique properties of sweet potato starch set these noodles apart. Unlike wheat-based pasta, which remains opaque when cooked, sweet potato starch noodles turn from opaque to translucent in boiling water. This change occurs due to the swelling and partial dissolution of the starch granules when heated1.

As the noodles absorb water, they develop a pleasantly chewy texture that complements the flavors of the sesame oil, soy sauce, and various vegetables typically used in Japchae. The next time you enjoy a plate of Japchae, you'll appreciate not only the culinary skill involved but also the food science that gives these noodles their distinctive, translucent appearance.

A plate of Japchae noodles with a glossy, translucent appearance, garnished with colorful vegetables and sesame seeds

Bibim Guksu (Spicy Mixed Noodles)

Bibim Guksu is a refreshing Korean noodle dish that's perfect for summer. It consists of thin wheat noodles called somyeon in a spicy dressing made from gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), sesame oil, sugar, and vinegar. The name, which means "mixed noodles", reflects its simplicity and the combination of flavors and textures.

Somyeon noodles, light and supple, make a great base for the dish, easily absorbing the various flavors. Served cold, they offer a cooling experience while providing a satisfying chewiness. The sauce—spicy with a touch of sweetness, bright and tangy—enlivens your taste buds with each bite.

Bibim Guksu's versatility is evident in its vegetable toppings. Crisp cucumbers, radishes, sometimes a hard-boiled egg, and a sprinkle of seaweed contribute a range of textures and flavors. This dish showcases the essence of Korean cuisine, where simple ingredients come together to create memorable flavors2. Each version of Bibim Guksu can be unique, depending on the seasonal vegetables you choose to include.

A delicious bowl of Bibim Guksu, featuring somyeon noodles tossed in a spicy dressing with cucumber, radish, hard-boiled egg, and seaweed toppings
  1. BeMiller JN. Pasting, paste, and gel properties of starch–hydrocolloid combinations. Carbohydrate Polymers. 2011;86(2):386-423.
  2. Coulston AM, Boushey C. Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease. Academic Press; 2017.