“Can we eat more kimchi?” Jake asked the other week.
Growing-up as an adopted Korean in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul, I was introduced to kimchi at Korean Culture Camp. We ate kimchi during every lunch and I never gave a second thought to liking it. My family did not like kimchi, but was always willing to buy a jar from Cub Foods when I requested it. Now, kimchi & gochujang are all the rage. A lot of us already knew how awesome Korean food is but I can’t complain the cuisine is increasing in popularity.
Kimchi is a Korean pickled cabbage. It tastes salty, spicy, and tangy. Some versions are spicier than others and others have a slight note of fish sauce. When you dine at Korean restaurants, you’ll find it served in a little dish along with other types of Korean pickles and marinated vegetables. The whole spread of pickles is called banchan and it just comes with your meal.
One of our favorite dishes to order anywhere is Korean pancakes (pa jun, pajeon, jeon, pajun). We’ve enjoyed pancakes made with green onion, kimchi, beef bulgogi and mixed seafood. When we visit Dong Yang in Colombia Heights, MN, we usually order their massive seafood pancake loaded with sea creatures like octopus and mussels.
Korean pancakes are generally big, round, flat things. They’re cut into squares, party pizza style, and accompanied by a soy dipping sauce.
This month, I’ve prepared Maangchi’s recipe many times at home. I also tried adding some rice flour to my batter after finding Emily Han’s recipe in The Kitchn. Preparing smaller pancakes on an electric pancake griddle is probably not the most traditional method, it works for us. The pancakes are easier to flip and I save the extras for later. Simply, throw a leftover pancake in a hot pan with a little bit of oil and cook again on both sides until browned. I eat them for breakfast along with a hard-boiled egg or sliced avocado.
- If you have rice flour, swap a little bit (about 2 tablespoons) into the 1/2 cup of flour. A little adds some nice texture. A lot will make them gummy and gritty.
- Cook the pancakes on something non-stick, otherwise you’ll end-up with a mess, albeit a tasty mess. Because the pancakes contain a lot of kimchi, they’ll take a while to brown and you’ll want to eat them quickly. I don’t mind Korean pancakes with a softer texture, though, because they taste so good. Plus, the pancakes will brown-up even more when you reheat them in a hot pan.
- Crazy Korean Cooking recommends using less flour for crispier pancakes and cooking on high heat with plenty of oil. My Korean Kitchen recommends purchasing a Korean pancake mix.
- Sometimes I like to change things up. Instead of adding two cups of kimchi to the pancakes, I’ll add one cup of kimchi and one cup of cooked salad shrimp.
2 cups of kimchi, chopped & excess liquid drained
2-3 scallions, sliced. Slice the green ends longer pieces and white roots more thinly.
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 cup flour, total. If you have rice flour, swap in about 2 tablespoons.
About 1/2 cup of water. Start with less than 1/2 cup. Add more water if too dry and more flour if too wet.
Soy sauce, about 1/2-3/4 cup
Brown sugar, sugar or honey, to taste
A good glob of fresh, grated ginger
1 clove of garlic, grated
Small drizzle of sesame oil
(optional) Drizzle of hot chili oil or dash of hot pepper
A good splash of rice wine vinegar
*If you don’t have rice wine vinegar, use whatever you have. I’ve had to use balsamic and white wine vinegar in a pinch and they tasted just fine. Just added a tangy note.
- In a large bowl, add the kimchi, scallions, salt, sugar, kimchi juice, and flour.
- Gradually stir in the water with a fork until you like the batter’s consistency. It should be thick enough that you have to squish it down on the griddle with the back of your spoon to make a pancake.
- Heat electric skillet to medium-high and coat the surface with a thin layer of oil.
- When the pan is hot, carefully ladle on spoonfuls of the kimchi batter. Make your pancakes as large or small as you wish. Flatten the pancakes so that they can brown and cook evenly.
- Flip when golden brown. Flip again a few times until both sides are golden brown and the pancakes aren’t too soggy.
- If you want to remove any excess oil, set on a paper towel.
- Cut into squares and serve with soy sauce dip and/or a dab of sriracha mayo.
- To make soy sauce dip: Pour soy sauce in a bowl. Add the brown sugar, grated garlic and grated ginger and stir. Add the sesame oil, chili oil and vinegar to taste. Adjust seasoning as you wish.
- Store leftovers in the fridge. Layer waxed paper or parchment between them so they don’t stick. Reheat them in a hot pan with a touch of oil.