Fresh Veggie Korean Pancakes

posted in: Recipes | 37

So I mentioned that I’m really into exploring the East right now — in food, and particularly from other Eastern cultures than the one I grew up with. So, after hiding my nose in volumes of cookbooks to piece together the esoteric recipe, and embarking on many journeys, sometimes to the farthest reaches of the city, in search of the exotic, elusive, often strange-smelling ingredients and their required cooking tools, and lastly, chipping away at the arduous cooking technique, losing half my investment and several hours to failed batches, I’ve managed to pull off a feeble yet daring recreation of the… Korean pancake.

Just kidding, of course. I can’t help but have a little laugh over how easy this dish is to make. And how universal it is, too. Called pajeon in Korean, it basically means scallion (“pa“) pancake “jeon“). Hence, it’s very similar to Chinese scallion pancakes. But normally, we think of the Korean pancakes with a number of extra ingredients like shredded veggies, seafood, kimchee and meat. They’re also a bit like savory crepes; or, if you take out the flour, an omelet or frittata.

It’s simple pan food, just the kind of stuff I need on a weeknight when there’s “no food in the house.” Plus:

Over-easy egg on top, highly recommended.

I didn’t even have to go to Chinatown (or Koreatown) for this. (Although I will have to make a trip to the restaurant supply stores on the Bowery soon, to buy a giant stockpot to cook my *hopefully* winning chili for this Sunday in.) The veggies I put in these pancakes were scallions, sliced button mushrooms, shredded carrots and a bit of cabbage. I hesitated on making my own quick pickled cabbage as a meager substitute for that funky tang of kimchee, which I love, but decided against it. Kimchee is kimchee, and I wasn’t about to replace it with water and vinegar. In the end, even though I’m used to tasting Korean pancakes with some kimchee in it, I really liked this version in its own right. They taste more fresh and light. The vegetables have the crisp-cooked texture of that just-wilted stage, hopefully with a little caramelization from touching the pan.

two scoops: all-purpose and whole wheat flour

carbonated water gives the batter more air

Stuffed with more veggies and stuff than pancake batter is how I like my Korean pancakes. While a nutritionist would already give this a thumb’s up, I decided to make them a bit more healthy and use half-whole wheat flour along with all-purpose flour. (You know, I had to break the rules somewhere.) Previous trials have made me wary of swapping in whole wheat with reckless abandon, but as long as we aren’t baking and don’t mind the taste, I think whole wheat flour can do no harm with these.

ready to flip

One trick I picked up from a long-ago supper club dinner was to put carbonated water in the batter instead of tap. This was taught to me by the evening’s Korean pancake specialist, a Korean friend of a friend who had been making these appetizers at home since childhood. It’s not that much of an improvement, he admitted, but the splash of sparkling water helped keep the pancakes light and fluffy, rather than dense and boring — and since I feared extra denseness might be the destiny of using whole wheat flour in mine, I went with his advice. They were very light, indeed.

No, the “dipping sauce” is not just soy sauce, and I don’t even dip anything in it. It’s half-soy sauce, half-rice vinegar (white vinegar should do just fine), and I prefer to drizzle a little on top of my pancake with a spoon, sort of like drizzling maple syrup on Western pancakes. Personally, I find drenching the better part of one mouthful of a crispy, spongey pancake in soy sauce revolting. There is a misconception about the use of soy sauce, which in my upbringing has always been sparingly. I think it has something to do with the fact that Chinese take-out restaurants give away packets of soy sauce (don’t get me started on the “duck sauce”) with every order, as if you’re supposed to pour it on the already seasoned food. Very suspect. It may also be due to the English translation for the seasoning liquid as a “sauce.” But it’s not really a sauce on its own, usually. It’s more like salt. At home, a small sprinkle of soy sauce on eggs or leftover soupy rice is the lazy cook’s answer to making food more palatable, but unless it has a few slivers of fresh ginger or chopped scallions floating on its surface, one wouldn’t think of serving it in a bowl as a “sauce.”

In any case, this recipe is also very versatile; swap in whatever fresh veggies you have or prefer: spinach, shredded radishes, celery, or meat and seafood. When going for an entire, cheapskate meal, try plopping a fried egg on top of your finished pancake.

Fresh Veggie Korean Pancakes
(makes about 6-7 “silver dollar” size pancakes)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups carbonated water (seltzer)
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
dash of white pepper
2 large scallions, chopped to 2-3 inch pieces
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/3 cup shredded cabbage
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sift the flour and combine in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg and seltzer until there are no lumps. Add the salt, pepper, and the vegetables and stir.

Heat a large pan with enough oil to fully coat the bottom over medium-high heat. Ladle a scoop of the batter on the pan at a time, working in batches (probably of two). Check underneath the pancake after a couple minutes, and flip before the pancake batter on the top begins to cook (it should still be liquid by the time you flip — just like cooking regular pancakes). Cook another couple minutes on the opposite side. Remove from pan, add more oil to coat, and repeat with the rest of the batter. Serve pancakes with a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, or hot sauce on the side.

Cost Calculator
(for 6-7 pancakes, easily serves 2)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour: $0.20
1/2 cup whole wheat flour: $0.25
1 1/4 cups seltzer: $0.50
1 egg: $0.28
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms: $0.75
1/3 cup shredded carrots: $0.35
1/3 cup shredded cabbage: $0.20
2 scallions: $0.20
salt, white pepper, vegetable oil: $0.25

Total: $2.98

Health Factor

Four brownie points: Crispy appetizers like these tend to be greasy, oily affairs, but after a few ladles and flips on the pan, I found that less oil turns out the best pancakes. I like the slight burnt patches that happen when there’s less oil on some parts of the pan, and figure that the most minimal coating of oil each time the batter is poured on, the better. These cook pretty quickly anyhow.

Green Factor

Six maple leaves: I tried to use seasonal veggies only. In the summer, when zucchini and summer squash are in store, these will be a lot of fun to make again.

37 Responses

  1. jing

    i just made these last weekend and it was a disaster! looking forward to trying again with your recipe.

  2. Ceka

    The Korean pancakes look amazing. You don’t happen to have a good scallion pancake recipe, do you? I am obsessed with them!

  3. Reggie

    This is absolutely brilliant! Thanks for the recipe first of all. My friends and I are doing a 100-dollar challenge, which we only have 100 dollars this month to shop for food and drinks (of course, we stocked up a little right before the challenge). This pancake recipe will definitely come in handy for a cheapskate meal!

  4. Eric

    Now if you provide a good recipe for bi bim bop and kimchi I will never set foot on W. 35 St. ever again.

  5. Erin C

    These look fantastic. I recently ate the worst Korean pancakes ever from a restaurant, and I really like that I can control the ingredients in one of my faves–organic flours and all!

  6. Matt

    I tried making them using Mark Bittman’s receipt from the Times (maybe 18 months ago?) and they came out very much underdone. They tasted ok but lacked the crispness that yours obviously have. Perhaps it is time to try again.

    How did they taste with the whole wheat flour? Hearty? Gritty?

  7. amy

    Yum yum yum. In the summer, I use zucchini, scallions and jalapenos. Very hot and yum. While we do cut the pancakes into squares and dip them into dipping sauce (yes, a little vinegar is key), I remember growing up that my mom would drizzle a couple spoonfuls of soy sauce over the pancake. Kimchi-jeon is good to make when you want to use up slightly sour (soft and on it’s way out) kimchi.

  8. kevin

    Pajun (there are an infinite amount of ways to spell korean dishes, I’ve learned) is by far my favorite snack or whathaveyou, and now I don’t have to pester my mother for a recipe. yay!

  9. Michelle

    Thank you for this cheapskate-friendly recipe! I just tried it tonight, and it was surprisingly filling. I also added a touch of sesame oil to the batter and the dipping sauce. I love the addition of whole wheat flour; I thought it gave the pancakes a heartier taste.

  10. Lisa

    Mmmm, thanks so much for this! We ate them tonight. We love to cook but soooo didn’t want to but soooo wanted to eat real food. These were wonderful, and seriously filling. We did them with the what we had in the fridge/larder: carrots, roasted red peppers, onions, and thick ham from happy pigs, with fried eggs on top. Perfect! Yum! Thanks.

  11. cathy

    Glad this worked out well, Lisa!
    Ceka: No, I haven’t actually made my own scallion pancakes yet since they require some tricky kneading and pressing, but I would like to really soon!
    Matt: Actually, couldn’t taste the whole wheat hardly at all! The texture, too, was pretty undetected. Half and half is the trick, I guess!

  12. Jackie

    These look good, Cathy! Will have to try.
    Glad you love kimchi pancakes, too. Have you tried making them at home? Insanely delicious.
    Here’s a super quick, no-fail recipe straight from the motherland!

  13. Jackie

    And hearty congrats on making the 50 Best Food Blogs in the World!!!

  14. Bethany

    These were great! My fiance is Korean and this is his favorite thing his mom makes. Maybe I won’t ever reach that level of yumminess…… but your recipe was a delicious start! My only problem was that I almost smoked out my roommates… and the whole house smelled like cooking oil when I was done! Seriously, I thought we were going to set off the smoke alarm. What is going wrong? Is my frying method flawed?

  15. Eric Hoffman

    Nice site. I have had those pancakes before with seafood in them and they are yummy. Good job.

  16. Sung

    Also one of my favorite dishes.

    Consider substituting garlic chives (aka chinese chives or, in Korean, puchu) in lieu of scallions, or in addition. If you have sesame leaves–cutting a few into thin strips and adding a few pieces to each pancake will make each smell and taste even more wonderful.

    Also consider adding julienned potato and reducing the amount of flour in proportion–it keeps the carbs at the right level, but adds a nice touch of crispiness when fried, especially if you get some potato to stick out off the edges.

  17. Yvo

    Coincidentally I decided to make these after seeing a post on Just Bento… I’ll have to tweak and see if I can combine the two inspirations 🙂
    Hers is not pejeon though (says she) though I can’t really tell you what makes it different.

  18. Daniel

    Do you guys have a recommendation section, i’d like to suggest some stuff

  19. […] very soon). I’m a fan of savory pancakes from many countries, like the Korean-style shredded veggie-studded ones a few months back. Instead of wheat flour, these Indian pancakes are based on gram flour, or finely […]

  20. BigGirlPhoebz

    I wound up making something a similar veggie pancake as a way to use up the leftover carrot and cabbage I had slowly going south in my fridge. I didn’t realize at the time how close they were to this classic korean version. Do you ever put any Asian condiments in the mixture itself? I think I am going to make them again, this time using your recipe, and try a little hit of siracha to give them a kick. In any case, if you want to check out my version:


  21. Ronny

    I made these tonight and they were a good introduction into Pajeon! Be sure to let the pancakes cook as it will develop a “toasty” taste. I think the vegetables in this recipe were a little boring for me, so I would use a lot more green onion and perhaps some jalepeno peppers sliced thin. But that’s just my taste! Give it a try! Cheap and easy to make!

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  25. Makeda Sewald

    It’s easy to make your ain healthy and flossy homemade Denny’s hotcakes with this easy-to-follow Denny’s flannel cake recipe with healthy ingredients, such as Graham and Canola Oil, served with a dollop of cream cheese and sodding maple syrup or beloved , or create your ain healthy flannel cake toppings.

  26. Carolyn

    Mmm my Mom makes the best ones! Stuffed with scallions, jalapenos, squid and kimchee.. I love.

  27. […] Seems rough, right? She suggests that once you factor in all the travel and waiting, it’s not necessarily easier or faster to eat at a restaurant. “Going out to dine should be a luxury. Some people have it the other way around, where cooking something at home is this big production,” says Erway. (For an easy at-home example, Erway suggests her Fresh Veggie Korean Pancakes.) […]

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  34. Tasting Korea

    Pajeon is not traditionally eaten with a fried egg on top although you may crack an egg on the pancake as it griddles to give it a nice yellow coloring/flavor. Normally, pajeon is dipped in the sauce. There is no need to douse each piece with sauce, just slightly dipping a corner is enough. Korean pancakes tend to be more heavy on the fillings than the batter just as you prefer them. You may cook them with seltzer water, but please keep in mind that it is not a traditional ingredient.

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