Korean Seafood Pancake (Haemul Pajeon)

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My friend Anna came over two Saturdays ago to teach me how to make Korean seafood pancakes – my favorite Korean dish. The idea was for her to teach me how to make them, since she’s Korean, so when she arrived I let her take the lead. But I’m incapable of fully trusting others in the kitchen so inside I was thinking this as I watched her-

Doesn’t the batter look too thick?
Why are you cutting the spring onions so small?
Shouldn’t we add more peppers?

But possibly for the first time in my life, I managed to hold my tongue.

The result was perfect, yet for some absurd reason (re: trust issues) I still felt like I should try it with my amendments. So later that week I made Korean pancakes again, the way I thought they should be made based on zero evidence or experience, and…

They were terrible!!!

The moral of the story is: when making Korean food, listen to your Korean friend.

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Begin by washing and prepping your veg. We’ve got green onions, regular onions, a red pepper and a green pepper. Thinly slice everything, including the spring onions.

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Now, prep the shrimp and squid. If you’re using frozen like I am, defrost it in salted cold water.

Buying shrimp is an incredibly stressful activity for me because the shrimping industry is one of the worst out there and I don’t want to be implicit in the trafficking of persons. I came across the shrimp above in the frozen foods section of Cold Storage. I did a bit of reading and wasn’t fully satisfied but it was the best I could find. Let me know if you know a better place to get sustainable, slave-free shrimp. Make intentional choices, people, even if the stress will shorten your life. It may give life to others.

If you’re strict vegetarian, you can omit the seafood to make a tasty spring onion pancake.

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Make the batter by mixing Korean pancake mix (you can buy this at any Korean grocery store) with ice water (required for extra-crispy pancakes) until you get the consistency above. Not too thick, not too thin. You’re gonna have to eyeball it because Anna didn’t measure it, but from what I could tell it seems to be about a 1 to 1 ratio between the mix and water.

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Add the veg and seafood to the batter.

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And black pepper, and mix to combine.

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Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium high heat until oil is shimmering. Add just enough batter to cover the pan, pressing with the back of a spatula to spread thinly. The batter should sizzle when it hits the pan.

You can use less oil if you want, but please don’t. This isn’t a health food folks!

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Cook for a few minutes until brown and crispy in parts, and flip to cook the other side, pressing down firmly with the backside of a spatula to ensure maximum contact with the pan. You can flip a few times until you get your desired level of crispiness.

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Remove from pan and serve immediately with dipping sauce (recipe below). Anna and I were so impatient to eat them we didn’t even sit down. We just devoured the pancake while standing at the kitchen counter while we impatiently waited for the next one to finish cooking. To be honest, it was difficult sharing the first pancake.

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How could you blame us?

Recipe below.

Korean Seafood Pancake
Serves 2 generously

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min

Ingredients for pancake
1/2 cup Korean pancake mix
1/2 cup ice water, give or take
freshly cracked black pepper
10 medium shrimp
5 rings calamari
1 large handful of spring onions, sliced lengthwise thinly
1 green pepper and 1 red pepper, slided thinly at an angle
1/2 a medium onion, sliced thinly
canola or vegetable oil

Ingredients for dipping sauce
3 tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp cayenne pepper

To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients.

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup Korean pancake mix with ice water until the batter thickly and slowly drips off a fork.
  2. Wash, de-shell, and de-vein shrimp. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. Wash calamari and cut into 1 inch pieces.
  4. Add seafood and prepped spring onions, regular onions, and peppers to the batter and mix well.
  5. In a non-stick pan over medium high heat, add 1 tbs of oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add just enough batter to thinly cover the bottom of the pan, pressing the batter with the back of the spatula to spread thinly. The batter should sizzle when it hits the pan.
  6. Cook for 2 minutes or until the bottom is crispy brown. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

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