Time for another Korean recipe! I'm starting slow and easy to avoid any discouraging disasters. Today it's pajeon (PAH-juhn) jeon (juhn), a Korean pancake with a variety of fillings. I'm showing a classic buchu pajeon jeon here. I also made one with kimchi (kimchi-jeon), but it broke into pieces, so you wouldn't recognize it.
* * Edit: Well, I have some proverbial egg on my face. A Korean classmate graciously reminded me that pajeon is, literally, "green onion pancake." In other words, if you're talking generic Korean pancake, you will often find the name of the ingredient + -jeon (pronounced juhn). "Pah" is Korean for green onion. Thus, since I'm not using green onion here, "pa-jeon" is incorrect. In my haste, and given the fact that growing up, my siblings and I called all -jeon "green thing" (I'm not kidding), I overlooked the error! Also, I think I get knocked off two Korean points now. * *
Buchu is the Korean word for garlic chives. It smells like a cross between garlic and onion and is milder than the scallions you find in most grocery stores. If you've had Chinese dim sum with chives, you know what I'm talking about. Look for it in your nearest Chinese or Korean grocery store, but if that's not possible, scallions are probably your next best bet are good, too. [** Edit: And in fact, per the above, pajeon would be the name for green onion pancake. **]
Kimchi is...well, you probably know what kimchi is. For this recipe, I'm talking napa cabbage kimchi.
Pajeon Jeon is the savory counterpoint to the American pancake but can be eaten at any time of day. Growing up, I ate it as a light snack. When done right, it's thin and crispy on the edges, not doughy and heavy. My mom likes to pile on the ingredients so that you're eating mainly greens, not dough. (She piles on even more than what you see in the photos below!) Other popular fillings include seafood (fresh squid, clams, shrimp) or other vegetables like zucchini. You can cut the pajeon jeon into wedges before serving or, if you're comfortable with your fellow diners, just dig in with your chopsticks. Dip each bite into a mix of soy sauce and vinegar. Yum!
Enough talking, time for the recipe.
Korean Jeon (Pancake) with Buchu and Kimchi
Makes 2 large pancakes
Start with 2 small bunches of buchu (rinsed and cut into 2-3" lengths) and about half a cup of nappa cabbage kimchi. You can mix these together to make buchu-kimchi pajeon jeon, or you can keep them separate, as I did. You will probably have some buchu left over, unless you pile it on like my mom.
First, go hunt down Korean pancake flour. It may not look like this bag, but it will read Buchim Gahru (Bu-cheem Gah-roo). Just to be sure, you will hope there is a line in English that reads "Crispy & Savory Golden Korean Pancake Mix." Be sure to get the right flour. Pancake flour is often sold alongside Tee-geem (frying) flour. Not that frying flour will be a disaster, but if you're trying to do it right the first time . . .
The pancake flour I bought contains (and here, I am simply writing what's on the label): Wheat flour, corn starch, corn flour, oxidized starch, salt, potato powder, baking powder, garlic powder, and riboflavin.
If you can find this stuff, use it. If you can't, my Westernized Korean cookbook says you can use all-purpose flour, but I imagine it would taste different. Maybe a little less flavor, different texture. But why not try it?
I couldn't understand the instructions on the bag, which were in grams anyway, so I mixed two cups of the pancake flour with about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock (almost a 1:1 ratio) and one beaten egg. You're normally supposed to use water and a pinch of salt, but I substituted stock and omitted the extra salt.
You can mix the fillings right into the batter, but I learned this technique from my mom: Spread the ingredients in a pan (at least nine inches wide) in which you've preheated a generous amount of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Then ladle the batter over the ingredients, filling all the spaces. Don't add too much batter. Minimal batter, maximum filling.
Cook the pajeon jeon for a few minutes, and when you see the edges start to brown and crisp, flip it over and cook for another few minutes.
Remove the pajeon jeon from heat. Cut into wedges or serve whole, with a sauce made of soy sauce and a splash of vinegar. You can go crazy with the sauce, but I like it simple.