Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kimchi pancakes and spicy Korean pickles

We both love Korean food, but we don't eat it too frequently because our favorite spot to get it, Bonjoo, is not that inexpensive – and because of all the meat and white rice that tends to show up on our table there. Neither of us had ever cooked Korean food, though we've been enamored of gochujang chili paste for a while now, but I was craving the flavors of the transected peninsula, and we had a veritable jug of kimchi that had started to leak in the refrigerator.

This was really one of those moments that makes me appreciate the internet. By what other means could I uncover a slate of Korean family recipes to try and replicate in my own kitchen after searching for only a few minutes? I came across Kitchen Wench, where Ellie Won posts gorgeous photos of her cooking, and her exciting stash of family recipes for some of the most inescapably intriguing dishes in the cuisine. Jon and I have been pondering the process of fermenting our own kimchi for a while now, and I have a feeling it's Ellie's recipe we'll turn to when the time is right.

One of my nicknames for Jon is "Kimchi Jon" – since the pancakes we relish are transliterated as kimchi jeon, and since kimchi is one of his favorite foods – so I couldn't resist starting there, incorporating our maturing cabbage into a healthfully whole-wheat batter.

I've always loved the spicy cucumbers that often arrive among the banchan presented with your meal at a Korean restaurant, and I figured that with enough chili powder, salt, and vinegar, even Jon would eat these kirbies, despite his innate disrespect for the vegetable. This recipe came from Merril, at Food to Savor, and I'll definitely be returning to her site for more ideas. We snacked on these pickles all night and the next day at lunch. Jon actually just broke out the last of them now for a snack while he watches the Lakers game.


Time: 20 minutes

1 cup kimchi, liquid squeezed out and diced
1/2 white onion, finely sliced
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 - 2/3 cup water
Sunflower, olive or any other mild-flavored oil for frying

1. Put the kimchi in a bowl, season with freshly ground black pepper and garlic. Add the gochujang and onion and mix together until evenly combined.
2. Add the flour and egg and mix altogether, then slowly add the water, stirring briskly after each addition. Stop once the batter has thinned a bit but isn’t quite as thin as normal pancake batter.
3. Heat up some oil in a large skillet/frying pan over low-medium heat, and once it’s hot, pour a ladle of batter into the pan in the shape of a circle, using the back of the ladle to spread out the mixture and thin out the pancake (you want a nice thin pancake to get a good ratio of crispy outer to soft inner).
4. Once the edges have set and the bottom is nice and crispy, carefully flip the pancake and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
5. Place the pancake on a plate lined with paper towels, allow it to drain, and slice into squares before serving.

Yield: 2 large pancakes – serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as an entrée.


Time: 10 minutes prep, 15 minutes to sit

5 seedless kirby cucumbers
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes (not the American kind)
1 1/2 tbsp gochujang red pepper paste
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Slice cucumbers into the thinnest discs you can manage.
2. Put cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle salt over them. Mix the cucumber slices around so salt is evenly distributed. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.
3. Add all remaining ingredients. Toss cucumber slices to distribute ingredients evenly.
4. Taste; add more salt/vinegar/garlic/sugar as desired.


Cynthia August 19, 2008 at 1:44 PM  

the cucumbers sound great. i love letting them age for a few days, really makes the flavor deep!

Rosemary February 2, 2010 at 10:53 AM  

Your blog (writing and photography) is just fantastic! I made the spicy Korean pickles last night (delicious) and would love to make the kimchi pancakes tonight. What do you put in your soy dipping sauce? Thanks!

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