A few years ago when I was visiting Steven's parents, his mom made some Korean pancakes for us. They were so good, I just had to ask her for the recipe. Then I was shocked to see her pull out a packaged mix from the pantry. I always thought that homemade always trumps convenience but that may not be the case with pajeon. After looking at the ingredients in the package, which was mainly flour, I thought I could go home and recreate it. But Steven's mom warned me that she's tried doing that too and the pancakes didn't taste the same. Well, she was right, and with my first attempt, my pancakes were dense and gummy.
After my original post over a year ago, I asked readers to share their pe jeon secrets and you guys offered some pretty good suggestions. I decreased the number of eggs from 2 to 1 and substituted some rice flour for all purpose flour. The resulting pancakes were excellent and the closest I've come to replicating the ones made from a package. But if you have access to an Asian market, I would go for the mix because it's easy and the results are consistent.
Unlike American pancakes, which are fluffy and usually topped with fruit or syrup, Korean pancakes are crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, and packed with delicious morsels of seafood and vegetables. The pancake we ordered at the Korean BBQ restaurant in LA was probably 75% seafood. I used a seafood mix I got from a local Asian market that was a mix of imitation crab meat, octopus, squid, shrimp, and cooked oysters. Trader Joe's carries a seafood mix of squid, scallops, and shrimp or feel free to use only shrimp if that's what's available to you. Omit the seafood entirely and up the veggies for a vegetarian version. A lot of readers also suggested adding kimchi juice for added flavor but I rarely have kimchi around.
Pa Jeon/Pa Jun - Korean Pancake with Seafood and Vegetables
makes 3 10 inch pancakes
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C rice flour (not glutinous rice flour)
2 C water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 oz chopped seafood mix or shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
3 green onions, thinly sliced
or substitute a handful of Chinese chives cut into 2 inches
In a large bowl add the all-purpose flour, rice flour, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the egg and start with 1 1/2 cups of water. Whisk until smooth. If the batter is looking too thick, add a little more water. The consistency should be like heavy cream, not too watery. Add in the chopped seafood (if using), grated vegetables, and green onions or chives.
Heat a tablespoon and half of vegetable oil in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Use plenty of oil, enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, for a crispy pancake. Ladle one third of the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly in the pan. Cook until the bottom is crisp and golden brown. Flip and cook on the second side until crisp and golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
Cut the pancakes into 8 wedges and serve with dipping sauce.
For the spicy dipping sauce, I mix equal parts chili sauce (sambal oelek) with soy paste which is like a thickened soy sauce, Kim Lan makes our favorite. A more appropriate chili sauce would be gochujang (Korean chili bean paste, the Chinese equivalent is dou ban jiang). Adjust the spiciness according to your own tastes.