Pajeon (Korean scallion pancakes)
These superfine threads of a dried Korean red chile pepper, known in their native land as gochu, are reddish-brown in color and 2 to 3 inches in length. Their delicate, feathery appearance, mild heat level and earthy, smoky flavor – especially when lightly dry-toasted in a skillet – add striking color and depth of flavor to numerous Asian dishes, including the spicy Korean condiment, kimchi.
Use it: Chile threads are traditionally used as a garnish. Capitalize on the color contrast atop eggs or sashimi, or sprinkled over meat and fish dishes. They also make an impressive flavoring agent for soupy noodle dishes and stews.
Find it: East Oriental Grocery Store, 13365 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield, 314.205.1882
Ingredients5 oz. light soy sauce (usukuchi if available)*
3 oz. unseasoned rice vinegar*
2 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger
2 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 scallion, minced, plus 8 to 10 scallions, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths then sliced lengthwise, divided into 4 stacks
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. roasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. kochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)*
½ cup rice flour*
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. Korean hot bean paste*
2 ½ to 3 cups ice cold water
1½ cups shredded or chopped vegetables of choice (combination of shredded carrot, shredded Korean zucchini*, diced bok choy or chopped fresh oyster or shiitake mushrooms.**)
½ package or ½ oz. silgochu (shredded red pepper threads)*
• First, prepare the dipping sauce: Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, minced ginger, minced garlic, 1 minced scallion, sesame oil, sesame seeds and hot pepper paste in a sealed container and shake until completely mixed. Set aside.
• To prepare the pajeon batter, combine both the rice and all-purpose flours with the eggs, salt, hot bean paste and cold water in a large mixing bowl until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix.
• Add the vegetables and pepper threads, and carefully incorporate them into the batter. Let the batter rest for 20 minutes. (It should be smooth and a bit on the runny side. Add more water if it’s too thick.)
• When ready to make the pancakes, heat a nonstick 9-inch sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat and pour in 1 teaspoon of canola oil. Lay 1 stack of the scallions in the pan in one direction. Using a 1-cup ladle, top the scallions with 1 cup of batter. Smooth out the batter, if necessary, to a pancake shape.
• After approximately 2 minutes, check the underside of the pancake. If the edges and underside are nicely browned, flip the pancake. Let cook for 2 minutes. Remove and place on a cutting board.
• Cook the additional pancakes in a similar fashion. When all 4 pancakes are completed, cut them into pie-shaped slices and serve warm with the dipping sauce.
*Available at Asia Market, 1243-B Castillon Arcade Plaza, Creve Coeur, 314.878.2010
**If using mushrooms, first sauté with a bit of oil, 1 teaspoon minced ginger and 1 minced garlic clove until soft. Once cooled, add back into the batter, so as not to cook the egg.