Pa-jeon – Traditional Korean savoury pancakes

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Though it’s true that I’ve blogged these Korean savoury seafood pancakes before, it was in the early days of this blog when I didn’t have much of an audience, so I thought I’d write a new entry giving them the glory that they well and truly deserve.

Now this dish is by far one of my all-time favourite snackfoods, with its fried frittery goodness which contains the mild oniony goodness of spring onions, the flavour of the sea all dipped into a simple soy & vinegar sauce to combat the oilyness, its a way of enjoying pancakes that I know not many people have had the luck to try!

Although they are pancakes in the literal sense, if you’re expecting anything remotely like the airy, fluffy breakfast pancakes or lace-thin crepes we’re used to in Western cuisine, you’re in for quite a surprise. No, these Korean delights are absolutely nothing like their Western counterparts – the batter is flat and doughy with not even the hint of aeration from any kind of rising agent. This is definitely not the kind of pancake you serve for breakfast. In fact, its far more common to see this served as a light meal or snack during the day, or even as an appetizer or ‘banchan‘ (side dish) during a full meal.

Whatever time of day it’s served doesn’t change the fact that these taste best immediately off the frying pan, when the dough is soft, the brown bits crunchy and the pancake is best able to absorb the dipping sauce to elevate the flavour just one more notch.

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This is a quite a ‘common’ recipe, and very far from haute cuisine – its often served in snack food houses alongside ddukbokgi, where its used to mop up the leftover thick, sweet and spicy sauce leftover from the rice cakes, so I recommend serving the two dishes side by side if you’re up for it – together they make for a flavoursome and pretty quick meal…and though its not exactly the healthiest of dishes (mmm, carb city!), what’s wrong with a little indulgence every now and then?

Oh, and a word of warning – the dipping sauce is strong, so when you’re eating the pancake, only give the piece that you’re holding the briefest dip to about 1/3 or halfway…any more than that and you might be reeling! But if that happens, or you drop your piece IN the sauce (which, believe it or not, happens to the best of us), don’t worry too much – just fish it right out and dot the sauce-laden piece over the other pieces of the pancake. Its not exactly perfect table manners, but it’ll save you from having to toss the piece!

And besides – what’s a little sauce-sharing between friends, hey? ;)

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Hae-mul Pajeon
(Korean Seafood & Spring Onion pancakes)

Pancake ingredients
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 – 2 cups water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large bunch of spring onions, washed and cut into thin 1.5 – 2 inch strips *
1/2 – 1 cup chopped baby shrimp **
1/2 – 1 cup finely chopped clams
1/2 – 1 cup finely chopped squid

Dipping sauce ingredients ***
4 tbsp white or rice vinegar
4 tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp finely chopped spring onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

* You can replace the spring onion with garlic chives cut into the same length for a slightly different flavour, or use about 1 cup of julienned zucchini to for a much milder taste

** To make a vegetarian version, just remove the seafood and you will have plain ‘pajeon’ :)

*** When it comes to making the sauce, if you can’t be bothered getting fancy, then just make a simplified version of equal parts light soy sauce and white/rice vinegar, its just as good and just as common in Korean households!

1. Mix together flour, water and egg bit by bit, making sure to beat out any lumps – this should be only a tiny bit thicker than thin pancake batter as you will still need the mixture to spread out on the frying pan, so add more water or flour accordingly.

2. Add the chopped spring onions and seafood to the batter, then mix thoroughly to incorporate all ingredients evenly.

3. Heat a frying pan and add some oil, when it’s nice and hot, ladle a big spoonful into the pan. You want this to be about 4-5mm thick, any thicker and it won’t cook through well. Fry until the batter is half-cooked (i.e. not liquid) on top and the bottom is nice and crisp and golden.

4. Carefully flip over and fry other side till golden, then remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Oil frying pan and repeat with remaining batter.

5. To serve, mix vinegar, soy sauce, chilli, spring onion, sugar, sesame oil and garlic and pour into a sauce bowl. Chop up the pancake into approx. 4cm x 4cm squares, then serve side by side with forks or chopsticks.

[tags]Korean food, recipes, savoury, pancakes, fritters, seafood, snacks, appetizers, Asian[/tags]

As for this random, out of place picture? Well, this is the original photo from the first post I did on this particular dish.

I’m still using a point-and-shoot camera, but isn’t it amazing how much your work can change in 12 months? Well, that and learning how to use your camera, of course!

If you think you’d like to learn more about how to use your own point-and-shoot camera, you can do so from this series of posts that I’ve written on how to use digital compact cameras.

Oh, and I’ll be beginning my series of posts on digital photo editing in a fortnight, so don’t forget to come back then for that!

Comments

  1. Gonna give it a try this evening, maybe with wholemeal flour instead, sounds delicious!
    Thanks.

  2. Pancakes are awesome… good stuff!

  3. Paul – If you’re using wholemeal flour, add a little more liquid as it is ‘thirstier’ than white flour :)

    JD – thanks!

  4. Ellie, I made this for lunch today! The sauce is delicious and i made the pancakes a little thinner, about 1-2 mm, because the insides tasted too mealy for me when I made them thicker. Thanks for the great recipe!

  5. @kelly – I tend to like the mealiness, but only because we enjoy them when they’re fresh out of the pan and have a thick crust on either side to balance it :) But I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

  6. What brand of soy sauce can you recommend? I went to a Korean Grocery asking for a soy sauce that I can use as dipping sauce for Panjeon and the grumpy Korean lady forced me this large bottle of Sempio Soy Sauce.
    Is that an ok brand?

  7. Thank you so much for all these korean recipes ! Because i’m in France and i’m going to a really good korean restaurant and this is great if i could try to make some of these pancakes, mandu or bibim bap ! So thank you a lot !

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