Korean Savoury Pancakes

How to Make Authentic Korean Pajeon (Savoury Pancakes)

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Updated on June 21, 2024

Searching for the quintessential recipe for authentic Korean Pajeon can feel like a bit of an odyssey. I know, having navigated through myriad versions myself, and after a fair bit of trial and improvement, I’ve pieced together everything you need to comprehend to create this savoury pancake delight at home.

This guide is designed to help you pick the perfect ingredients and master the technique of crafting Korean scallion pancakes with that delectably crispy edge each time. Prepare to dazzle with your culinary prowess!

What Is Pajeon?

How to Make Authentic Korean Pajeon (Savoury Pancakes)

Pajeon is a popular Korean savoury pancake dish. It has a rich history and comes in various regional variations across Korea.

A Brief History and Origins of the Dish

I discovered that pajeon, the authentic Korean pancake recipe I adore, has a history as rich and layered as its flavours. Originating from Korea, this traditional dish combines simple ingredients like green onions, flour, and water to create something marvellously savoury.

The name itself tells us much about its origins; “pa” signifies scallion in Korean, while “jeon” denotes pan-fried battered food. This culinary tradition reflects Korea’s love for using local, readily available ingredients to make dishes bursting with flavour.

Delving into the various iterations of pajeon across different regions in Korea revealed a fascinating aspect of Korean cuisine’s adaptability. For instance, adding seafood transforms it into haemul pajeon—a hearty seafood pancake cherished by many, including myself.

Each region crafts its version based on local preferences and seasonal availability of ingredients, showcasing the versatility and creativity within Korean cooking traditions. My journey through making an easy Korean pancake recipe at home taught me not just about cooking techniques but also immersed me in understanding Korea’s rich culinary heritage firsthand.

Variations of Pajeon in Different Regions of Korea

Different regions of Korea have their own unique variations of Pajeon. In Jeonju, the traditional Pajeon is made with glutinous rice flour to achieve a chewy texture. Haemul Pajeon from the coastal areas includes an assortment of seafood like squid, shrimp, and oysters, in addition to scallions.

Meanwhile, Bucheon’s interpretation features crispy edges due to the use of a higher ratio of batter compared to Jeonju’s version.

In Busan, they incorporate more seafood into their Pajeon, emphasising fresh ingredients like clams and mussels. Gangwon-do’s rendition involves using mountain herbs or vegetables indigenous to the region for added flavour and uniqueness.

Moreover, Gyeongsang province adds kimchi alongside green onion in their version for a spicy kick while maintaining the classic scallion flavour.

In Seoul, modern twists are seen where fusion elements are introduced, such as cheese or bacon, and mixed into the batter. Additionally, different regions also vary in their dipping sauce preferences—some prefer soy-based while others enjoy it with a spicier chilli dip, bringing regional diversity throughout Korea’s culinary landscape.

Overview of the Ingredients for Pajeon

How to Make Authentic Korean Pajeon (Savoury Pancakes)

Are you ready to explore the key components that make an authentic Pajeon? Let’s dive into the essentials needed to create this savoury Korean pancake.

All-Purpose Flour

The cornerstone of the batter, all-purpose flour provides the essential structure and body to the pancakes, ensuring a satisfyingly crisp exterior and a tender interior.

Water or Broth (Vegetable or Seafood)

The liquid component of the batter, water or broth adds moisture and depth of flavour. Opting for vegetable or seafood broth infuses the batter with an extra layer of umami richness, elevating the overall taste profile.

Egg

The humble egg binds the ingredients together, contributing to the pancake’s cohesive texture and providing richness and depth of flavour.

Soy Sauce

A fundamental seasoning in Korean cuisine, soy sauce imparts savoury depth and a hint of saltiness to the batter, enhancing its overall flavour profile.

Rice Wine or Mirin

Rice wine or mirin adds a subtle sweetness and depth to the batter, balancing the flavours and imparting a delicate aroma that harmonises with the other ingredients.

Salt

A pinch of salt enhances the natural flavours of the ingredients, ensuring a well-balanced and savoury pancake batter.

Chopped Scallions (Green Onions)

The star of the show, chopped scallions, lend a vibrant colour, fresh aroma, and mild onion flavour to the pancakes, infusing each bite with brightness and depth.

Seafood (Shrimp, Squid, or a Mix)

A medley of seafood—whether succulent shrimp, tender squid, or a tantalising mix—adds a luxurious oceanic essence to the pancakes, complementing the savoury notes of the batter.

Vegetables (Zucchini, Carrots, or Mushrooms)

Thinly sliced vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, or mushrooms contribute textural variety, visual appeal, and a burst of freshness to the pancakes, enhancing their overall flavour and nutritional profile.

Vegetable Oil for Frying

Vegetable oil serves as the medium for frying the pancakes, imparting a golden crispness to the exterior while ensuring even cooking and a satisfyingly tender interior.

Soy Dipping Sauce

A harmonious blend of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and sliced chilli peppers creates a tantalising dipping sauce that perfectly complements the savoury pancakes, adding layers of umami, acidity, nuttiness, and subtle heat to each bite.

How to Make Pajeon: Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Make Authentic Korean Pajeon (Savoury Pancakes)

To make Pajeon, follow the step-by-step instructions for a traditional Korean green onion pancake recipe. Choose the best ingredients and use tips to achieve the perfect texture and flavour.

1. Prepare the Batter

Start by gathering your ingredients and a large mixing bowl. Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour and pour it into the bowl. Next, add 1 cup of water or broth; for added flavour, you can choose between vegetable broth or seafood broth. The broth infuses the batter with subtle undertones that complement the savoury ingredients of the pajeon.

Crack a fresh egg into the mixture, which acts as a binder, helping to hold the batter together while adding richness and a slightly fluffy texture. Pour in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to provide the essential salty, umami flavour that enhances the overall taste. Then, add 1 tablespoon of rice wine or mirin, which imparts a mild sweetness and depth, balancing the saltiness of the soy sauce. Finally, add 1 teaspoon of salt to ensure the batter is well-seasoned.

Using a whisk, mix the ingredients thoroughly. Whisk vigorously to ensure that all the dry flour is fully incorporated into the liquid, preventing lumps from forming in the batter. Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and lump-free. The desired consistency should be slightly thicker than traditional pancake batter, which will help the batter coat the ingredients evenly and result in a cohesive pancake.

Once mixed, let the batter rest for about 10-15 minutes. This resting period is crucial, as it allows the flour to fully hydrate. During this time, the starches in the flour absorb the liquid, which not only helps to thicken the batter but also ensures a smoother texture. This step is essential for achieving the right consistency and texture in the final pancakes. A well-rested batter will spread more evenly in the pan and result in a more cohesive, tender pancake with a better mouthfeel. Before you start cooking, give the batter a quick stir to ensure all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is ready for frying.

2. Prepare the Ingredients

Start with 2 cups of fresh scallions (green onions). Wash the scallions thoroughly under cold running water to remove any dirt or grit. Pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Place the scallions on a cutting board and trim off the root ends. Then, chop the scallions into 2-inch pieces. For even cooking and optimal flavour, it’s beneficial to separate the white parts from the green parts, as they have slightly different cooking times. The white parts, being thicker and more robust, require a bit more time to cook than the tender green tops.

Select your seafood mix, aiming for about 1 cup in total. This can include shrimp, squid, or a combination of both, depending on your preference. If using shrimp, peel and devein them before chopping them into small, bite-sized pieces. For squid, clean them thoroughly by removing the internal organs, beak, and ink sac, then slice them into rings or small pieces. If you’re using frozen seafood, make sure it is fully thawed and well-drained to prevent excess moisture from diluting the batter. Pat the seafood dry with paper towels to ensure it is as dry as possible.

Choose 1 cup of vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, or mushrooms. Wash the vegetables thoroughly. For zucchini, trim off the ends and slice into thin, uniform pieces. If the zucchini is particularly large, you might want to cut it in half lengthwise before slicing. For carrots, peel them first if desired, then slice thinly on a diagonal for a visually appealing shape. Mushrooms should be cleaned with a damp cloth or paper towel to remove any dirt. Avoid rinsing mushrooms under water, as they can become waterlogged. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Uniformity in size and thickness of the vegetable slices is key to ensuring even cooking and a harmonious texture in the final pancakes.

3. Mix the Batter and Ingredients

After allowing the batter to rest for 10-15 minutes, you’ll notice that some ingredients might have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Before adding the other ingredients, give the batter a quick stir using a whisk or a wooden spoon. This helps to recombine the settled ingredients and ensures the batter maintains a uniform consistency. A well-stirred batter will be smooth and slightly thick, ready to envelop the other ingredients.

Start by gently folding in the chopped scallions. Since you have separated the white and green parts, add the white parts first, as they take slightly longer to cook. Fold them gently into the batter, ensuring they are evenly coated. Followed by adding the green parts of the scallions, which will add colour and a milder onion flavour. Use a spatula to fold the scallions into the batter, being careful not to overmix, which can make the batter tough.

Next, add the prepared seafood to the batter. Whether you’re using shrimp, squid, or a combination of both, make sure they are chopped into small, bite-sized pieces and are well-drained to avoid adding excess moisture to the batter. Gently fold the seafood into the batter, ensuring each piece is well-coated. The seafood should be evenly distributed throughout the batter to ensure that each bite of the pancake has a delightful seafood flavour.

Finally, add the thinly sliced vegetables to the batter. Whether you’re using zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, or a combination, aim for uniform slices to ensure even cooking. Gently fold the vegetables into the batter, mixing until they are evenly distributed. The vegetables not only add flavour and texture but also enhance the visual appeal of the pajeon with their vibrant colours.

Continue to fold the batter gently until all the ingredients—scallions, seafood, and vegetables—are evenly distributed. The goal is to ensure that every bite of the pajeon will have a bit of each ingredient, providing a harmonious blend of flavours and textures. Be careful not to overmix, as this can result in a dense batter. The mixture should be well-integrated but still light and airy, ready for frying.

4. Cook the Pancakes

Start by selecting a non-stick skillet or frying pan, which will help prevent the pancakes from sticking and ensure even cooking. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. Allow the pan to heat up for a minute or two before adding any oil. This ensures that the oil will spread more evenly and help achieve a crispy texture.

Add about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the heated pan. Swirl the oil around to coat the entire bottom of the pan. You want a thin, even layer of oil covering the surface to prevent sticking and promote a golden-brown, crispy exterior on the pajeon. If the oil doesn’t move easily, tilt the pan gently to distribute it evenly.

Using a ladle, scoop a portion of the prepared batter and pour it into the centre of the pan. Aim to spread the batter into a round shape. You can gently tilt the pan or use the back of the ladle to help spread the batter out evenly. Aim for a thickness of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. This thickness will allow the pancake to cook through evenly without being too thick or too thin.

Let the pancake cook undisturbed for about 3-4 minutes. This undisturbed cooking time is crucial for developing a crispy, golden-brown crust. During this time, you will notice the edges of the pancake starting to turn golden brown and the surface beginning to set. Avoid pressing down on the pancake, as this can cause it to become dense and lose its airy texture.

Once the edges are golden brown and the bottom is crispy, it’s time to flip the pancake. Using a spatula, carefully lift one edge of the pancake to check if it is ready to be flipped. If the pancake lifts easily and is golden brown, it’s ready. Carefully slide the spatula underneath the pancake, making sure to support as much of it as possible to prevent breaking. In one quick, confident motion, flip the pancake over. Cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes until it is also golden brown and crispy.

Remove the cooked pancake from the pan and place it on a serving plate. You can keep it warm by covering it with foil or placing it in a low-temperature oven. Add more oil to the pan as necessary to ensure each subsequent pancake cooks properly without sticking. Continue the process of ladling the batter, spreading it out, cooking until golden brown, flipping, and finishing until all the batter is used.

5. Serve

Each pancake should be cooked to a crispy, golden perfection on the outside while remaining tender on the inside. Once all the pancakes are cooked, cut them into wedges or squares for easy serving.

Serve the pajeon hot, accompanied by a soy dipping sauce. The sauce can be made by combining 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, and 1-2 sliced chilli peppers (optional).

Tips to Achieve the Perfect Texture and Flavour for Pajeon

How to Make Authentic Korean Pajeon (Savoury Pancakes)

To achieve the perfect texture and flavour for your Pajeon, consider the following tips from us:

Ingredient Quality and Preparation

Using fresh ingredients is key to enhancing the flavour and texture of your pajeon. Opt for the freshest scallions, seafood, and vegetables available. If you’re using frozen seafood, ensure it is completely thawed and well-drained to prevent excess moisture from diluting the batter. Additionally, chop all ingredients into uniform pieces to guarantee even cooking and a consistent texture throughout the pancake.

Batter Preparation

Accurate measurements are crucial for a well-balanced batter. After mixing the batter, allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes. This resting period is essential as it lets the flour absorb the liquid fully, resulting in a smoother texture and better cohesion when frying.

Cooking Technique

Preheating your non-stick skillet or frying pan before adding oil is vital. A properly preheated pan ensures an even cooking temperature and prevents sticking. Swirl the vegetable oil around the pan to coat the entire bottom evenly, ensuring a uniform crispy texture on the outside of the pancake. Spread the batter to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, allowing the pancake to cook through evenly without becoming too dense or too thin.

Cook the pancakes over medium-high heat to achieve a crispy exterior while allowing the inside to cook through without burning the outside. Let the pancake cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes on each side to form a golden-brown crust. Avoid pressing down on the pancake, as this can make it dense. Use a wide spatula to flip the pancake carefully, ensuring it is fully cooked on one side before flipping to prevent breaking.

Flavour Enhancements

To enhance the flavour of your pajeon, season the batter with soy sauce, rice wine or mirin, and salt. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste preferences. Serve the pancakes with a well-balanced dipping sauce that complements the savoury flavours. A typical dipping sauce might include soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and sliced chilli peppers.

Serving and Enjoying Pajeon

How to Make Authentic Korean Pajeon (Savoury Pancakes)

Discover how to elevate your enjoyment of pajeon, the traditional Korean savoury pancake, by pairing it with a variety of delicious accompaniments and side dishes. These combinations will enhance your dining experience and bring out the best in this beloved dish.

Best Ways to Serve and Enjoy Pajeon

When serving pajeon, consider cutting it into bite-sized pieces for easy sharing. This makes it perfect for gatherings and communal dining. Pair the pajeon with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. This simple yet flavourful sauce enhances the savoury notes of the pancake and adds a delightful tangy kick.

For a traditional touch, serve pajeon alongside classic Korean side dishes like kimchi or pickled vegetables. The bold, spicy flavours of kimchi contrast beautifully with the mild, savoury taste of the pajeon. For an extra crunch, try wrapping each piece of pajeon in a fresh lettuce leaf before dipping it into the sauce. This adds a refreshing element and makes for a satisfying bite.

Pajeon is a versatile dish that pairs well with a variety of other Korean dishes. At gatherings, it’s always a hit when accompanied by a hot bowl of doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew) or a refreshing bowl of mul-kimchi (water-based kimchi). These side dishes add depth and variety to your meal while complementing the crispy texture of the pancake.

For beverages, consider pairing pajeon with makgeolli, a light and crisp Korean rice wine. The slight sweetness and effervescence of makgeolli balance the savoury flavours of the pajeon perfectly. Alternatively, a cold beer can also be an excellent accompaniment, providing a refreshing contrast to the warm, savoury pancake.

Side Dishes

To fully appreciate pajeon, serve it with a range of complementary side dishes. A simple dipping sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil adds a tangy, savoury touch that enhances the pancake’s flavour. This sharp sauce balances the richness of the pajeon and brings out its savoury notes.

Consider adding a fresh salad to your spread. A salad made with crisp lettuce leaves, sliced radishes, and spicy kimchi creates an exciting contrast with the soft texture and subtle flavour of the pajeon. The crunch of fresh vegetables and the spicy kick of kimchi add layers of taste and texture to your meal. For those who prefer milder flavours, a cucumber salad with a light sesame dressing or a simple mixed greens salad with a tangy vinaigrette can provide a refreshing balance to the savoury pancake.

No traditional Korean meal is complete without steamed rice. The neutral flavour of steamed rice provides a perfect backdrop to the more intense flavours of pajeon and its accompaniments. For an extra burst of umami, serve pajeon alongside a warm bowl of doenjang jjigae or miso soup. These hearty soups complement the savoury notes of the pancake and add warmth and comfort to your dining experience.

Summary of Our Pajeon Recipe

How to Make Authentic Korean Pajeon (Savoury Pancakes)

Here is a summary of our recipe to speed things up:

Ingredients for the Batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water or broth (vegetable or seafood)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or mirin
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the Pancakes

  • 2 cups chopped scallions (green onions)
  • 1 cup seafood (shrimp, squid, or a mix), chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup vegetables (zucchini, carrots, or mushrooms), thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Soy dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and sliced chilli peppers)

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, water or broth, egg, soy sauce, rice wine or mirin, and salt. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Let the batter rest for about 10-15 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the liquid and results in a smoother texture.
  3. Chop the scallions into 2-inch pieces. Separate the white and green parts.
  4. Chop the seafood and vegetables into small, bite-sized pieces.
  5. After resting, give the batter a quick stir. Then, fold in the chopped scallions, seafood, and vegetables until they are evenly distributed.
  6. Heat a non-stick skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour a ladleful of the batter onto the pan, spreading it out into a round shape. The pancake should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  8. Cook the pancake for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Flip carefully using a spatula.
  9. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a serving plate. Cut into wedges or squares.
  10. Serve hot with soy dipping sauce on the side for dipping.

Experience the vibrant flavours of Korean cuisine by indulging in these savoury pancakes. Let each bite transport you to the bustling streets of Korea, where food is not just sustenance but a celebration of culture and tradition. Share the warmth and joy of authentic dishes with your loved ones as you gather around the table. So why wait? Dive into the culinary adventure and create your own batch of delicious pajeon today!

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