Kimchi, pronounced kim-chee, is a traditional fermented Korean vegetable side dish. It is served at almost every Korean restaurant and made in almost every Korean household. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi but it is most commonly made using cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber as the main ingredient. Cabbage is the most popular kind of kimchi. People may use kimchi as just a side dish to eat with rice or they may incorporate it into other main dishes like kimchi jjigae (kimchi soup) or the dish I am writing about today, kimchijeon (kimchi pancakes).
In Korea they have different types of pajeon, or Korean pancakes. I’m writing about kimchi pancakes but they have other pancakes that are more popular like vegetable pancakes or seafood pancakes. The pancake shops are busiest on rainy days as Koreans love to eat pajeon and drink makgoulli (milky Korean rice wine) when it rains. Why is that? According to my dad who grew up in Korea, you have to look at the history of the poor farmers in Korea. He says that when it rained, farmers couldn’t work so they would spend the day inside. Making pajeon was cheap, easy, and everyone could eat it together. They paired it with makgoulli because it was also very cheap to make and everyone made their own and had some on hand. Nowadays, people like pajeon on rainy days because it’s comfort food and cheers them up on a gloomy day. Others may provide a more scientific explanation. No matter the explanation, it’s been raining a lot lately, I’m craving Korean pancakes, so let’s get to it!
Makes 1 large pancake
1 cup finely chopped kimchi (you should be able to find kimchi at your local Asian grocery store)
3 Tbs kimchi juice
2 Tbs chopped onions
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
This recipe is pretty simple. Just put everything listed above, minus the vegetable oil, into a medium sized bowl and mix well.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet, I used a 12 inch skillet, over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, pour all the contents of the bowl onto the skillet and spread evenly into a nice, big circle. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom turns crispy, and then flip it to the other side.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook this side for about 2 minutes. You’ll also want to use your spatula and press down on the pancake every now and then. If you don’t think the other side is getting crunchy and you notice that there isn’t any oil left, you might want to add another tablespoon to help get that crunchy texture. Flip it back to the other side for another minute and then it’s done!