Recipe: Haemul Pa Jeon 해물파전 (Savory Seafood Pancakes) and Dipping Sauce

The weather's been a bit funky lately getting all warmed up and then suddenly deciding it wants to unload a torrent of rain upon the Korean peninsula.

While rainy weather back in the States might call for some soup one dish Koreans go for is fried savory pancake-like dishes called "jeon" (전). Jeon is a savory pancake which usually incorporates vegetables, meat, seafood in a savory batter. 

Why do Koreans eat jeon when it rains? In the big traditional marketplaces there are long-running stalls which hold these big, black, flat cooking griddles. After heating up the oil, the ajummas will take their mix or battered foods and place it on the hot surface which then makes a "sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss" sound. To Koreans, the sound sounds similar to rain hitting the ground and pavement. 

When I first heard this explanation, I thought the folks here were pulling my leg. Not only did I not hear the similarities but I'd never heard of people eating a certain food because the sound it made during the cooking process reminded them of the sounds of nature. What would people eat when it's blustery outside? What about if there's lightning? 

Anyways, with a lot of seafood and vegetables in season and with rain coming and going, it's a good time to make a few of these babies when you've got the time. It's awesome with a cold drink too (more on that below)



Haemul Pa Jun 해물파전 (Savory Seafood Pancakes)
Makes 2-3 servings

You'll need:
- 2 cups of jeon mix (Korean frying powder. Pronounced "Boo chim ga ru" and can be found in any Korean mart)

- 2 cups of ice cold water (Cold is important! I'll explain later)
Note: I usually just adjust the ratio of water and jeon according to how much ingredients I put in. In the end, the batter should be like the consistency of a thin pancake platter 
- 1/2 an onion
- 1/2 a carrot
- 1 bunch of small green onions (approximately 20ish green onions)
- 2 cups of a mix of your favorite fresh seafood (Chopped squid, raw oysters, shrimp, mussels etc. Whatever suits your fancy)
- 2 eggs
- 2 green chili peppers (optional)

1. Slice your onion finely, and julienne your washed and peeled carrot. Dice the chili peppers if you like a spicy kick

2. Wash your green onions and then remove the bottom stem. Line up the green onions and then cut them into roughly 2" pieces. Take one egg and lightly beat into a bowl and set aside

3. Mix in a large bowl the jeon mix powder, the ice cold water and one egg
Note: As any tempura expert will tell you, ice cold water is one of the secrets to a very crisp fry as the cold water makes the batter develop gluten slower. Less gluten in frying = light and crisp fry. More gluten = sticky and doughy batter. You can even put in a little less water and add 1 or 2 ice cubes to keep  the batter cold if you wish but be careful with the hot oil!

4. Take your mixed seafood and sliced vegetables and incorporate into the batter
Note: I don't think I should have to tell you your seafood should be fresh and all necessary preparations for your seafood done before adding to the batter (washing, removing shells, etc)

5. Add a thin layer of oil to the bottom of a nonstick pan and turn on the stove to medium high heat

6. Spoon out about 2-3 ladles of the batter (about a cup to a cup and half) making sure its spread out thinly. Otherwise not only will it be more difficult for you to flip the jeon during cooking but you will end up with a thick jeon with a doughy filling. While cooking, take your bowl with the beaten egg and place a tablespoon or two of the beaten egg on top of the batter



7. At around the 6 minute mark of cooking the first side, take a spatula to check how much the bottom has cooked. You want it to be nice and evenly browned. At that point, carefully flip over the jeon and cook another 6-8 minutes. Set the cooked jeon on a platter with a sheet of frying paper to absorb some of the oil

8. Wipe away any crumbs or scraps in your pan, add a layer of oil over medium high heat and repeat the cooking process until you use up all your batter

Note: An alternative method of preparing and cooking this dish is to add the vegetables and seafood to the batter but set aside the chopped green onions. Instead, after initially placing batter on your heated pan, take a handful of the green onions and place them into the batter on the top side before spooning the beaten egg on top. This gives you a bit more control in how to place the green onions and will give the green onions a slightly more aesthetically pleasant "char"










Also, this dish is fine on its own but it's abso-freaking-lutely delightful with a chilled bottle of makgeolli (rice wine). Obviously, makgeolli may be a little bit more difficult for you to obtain if you're outside of Korea.

And, as any makgeolli expert knows, makgeolli, like wine, comes in a vast variety of taste and texture. If you have the luxury of options, I'd go with a more bubbly and slightly sweet makgeolli to cut down on the oiliness of the jeon.

But a nice frosty pale ale would do just fine too :)


And one can't forget the accompanying dipping sauce...

Dipping Sauce for Jeon

You'll need:
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp of vinegar
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 1/2 tbsp of minced garlic
- 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp of sesame oil 
- 1/4 of an onion finely minced (optional)
- 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder (optional)

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and serve with the jeon. It helps if you make this sauce before the making the jeon. 

Alternatives:

While this is more or less the traditional haemul pajeon. You can substitute the green onions for chives and do the same thing. This is called boochoo jeon (부추전).

Also, I've tried a delightful twist on this dish in which a bit of curry powder was added to give it a different note. If you're a fan of curry and you got some curry powder on hand, give it a try!

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