Rainy Day Pancake
Pa jeon is one of my favourite foods. Since it’s known in Korea as “Rainy Day Pancake”, you’re technically supposed to eat it when it’s raining, but I’ve never really adhered to the tradition (although it did rain in Waterford yesterday!). In Korea, you eat pa jeon with makkoli – a fermented, alcoholic rice beverage that looks like milk and gets served cold in a large teapot. You share one big pancake with whomever you’re dining and drink the makkoli out of small bowls.
The main ingredient in this savoury pancake is green onion, but if you ever order it in a Korean restaurant the word “hae mul” will almost always precede it. Hae mul means seafood, often in the form of squid, mussels, bay scallops and shrimps, and is always a lovely addition to the pancake. It gets served with a soy dipping sauce; usually a combination of soy, vinegar, sugar and chilies. The outside of the pa jeon is always crisp while the inside is soft and comforting – I guess that’s why it’s such a great “rainy day” food.
The key to a crisp pa jeon is rice flour, but if you don’t have access to it (as was the case with me yesterday) regular ol’ all purpose will do the trick. If you’re ever in a Korean grocery store there are pa jeon mixes. I’ve never used them, but I imagine it’s a “just add water and veggies” kind of deal and would be super easy if you were in a hurry. Also, though, if you’re ever in a Korean grocery store, many will have ready made pa jeon on sale, often homemade by the shop owners, and they will taste a gazillion times better than the mix ever would.
This is my own recipe for pa jeon that I’ve adapted from talking to my Korean friends and acquaintances. Egg is not always included in a pa jeon recipe but I find it makes the pancake a lot fluffier on the inside. Also, when I’m feeling sneaky, I’ll grate a carrot or two into the batter with the green onion. Shhhh!
1 cup rice flour
1 cup AP flour
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups water
1 large bunch green onion, washed and sliced into inch long pieces
1 tsp minced chilies
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Mixed, chopped seafood (optional)
Canola/vegetable oil, for frying
- In a large bowl, mix the two types of flour (again, if you don’t have rice flour use two cups of AP) and salt. Add the egg and 1 1/2 cups water; mix. The consistency should be slightly runnier than a traditional pancake batter, but thicker than crepe batter. Add more water if needed.
- Add the soy sauce and chili to the batter and mix. Add the green onion and, if you plan to use seafood, you can add it in at this point.
- Heat a wok or non-stick (or cast iron) frying pan over medium heat. When the pan/wok is hot, add 1 Tbsp of oil followed by 1/2 cup of pancake batter (the pancake will not be crispy on the outside if the pan is not hot enough). Fry until crispy and golden brown on both sides. Repeat the process until all the batter has been used. Makes about six pa jeon. Serve with soy dipping sauce (1 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp chili paste, 2 tsp rice vinegar).