Savory Kimchi Pancakes (with Step-by-Step Photos)

Do you remember that full bottle of kimchi I got for our Bi Bim Bop dinner just a few posts ago?  Well, that's almost all gone now with only about a cup left, and what's remaining is sour and pungent--well, more sour and more pungent than usual. Perfect!  I usually wait until this stage in the depletion and fermentation of a bottle of kimchi to make a savory Korean sidedish.

It might sound like I’m suggesting that you cook up a Tabasco-and-sauerkraut doughnut, but it’s not quite like that.  Think zucchini pancakes, but with sour and spicy notes.  You must understand though that you need to enjoy kimchi in the first place to enjoy kimchi pancakes—sort of the way blueberry pancakes probably won’t make you like blueberries more if you just don’t like those berries.  But if you like kimchi and potstickers, it’s quite possible you’ll enjoy kimchi pancakes.

No, you do not eat kimchi pancakes the way you would your breakfast pancakes.  These are eaten sometimes as a savory snack by themselves and most often as a side-dish, one of the numerous “ban-chan” that covers a Korean dinner table.  In case you are not familiar with the way Koreans eat, you want to start with the principle that food is eaten communally.  Sure, diners have their own small bowl of rice and sometimes even their individual serving of a soup or stew.  But really, you need to get comfortable with taking your portion of the main dish (meat, fish, etc.) and ban-chan from the same bowl or dish that everyone else does since Korean meals are the quintessence of dining “family style.”

So, back to “ban-chan.”  You might see any number of these, from a modest 3 or 4 in some households, to literally dozens in some restaurants.  They usually include the ubiquitous kimchi, of various kinds—cabbage, radish, cucumber, whatever—sundry other marinated vegetables, stir-fried pieces of odeng or even dried tiny fish, a salted omelet-type egg custard, etc.  Kimchi pancakes—or seafood pancakes, or mung bean pancakes, etc.—are sometimes included amongst these ban-chan.  Often they are served with a soy dipping sauce, and the soy plays off the spicy pancakes nicely. 

Like regular kimchi, these pancakes are heavily spiced, so only the daring should really attempt to make or eat these, but here’s a simple, no-frills recipe if you want to make your own with the last remnants of your bottle of kimchi.

Soy Dipping Sauce:
2 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar (or regular white vinegar is fine too)
½ t roasted sesame oil
½ t minced green onion
¼ t coarse (Korean) red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients for the dipping sauce.  Really, you can improvise endlessly with this.   If you don’t have sesame oil and want to use roasted sesame seeds instead, fine.  No Korean pepper flakes?  Not a problem.  Use a bit of cayenne or some crushed pepper flakes or just skip it altogether. 

Kimchi Pancakes:
1½ cup flour
1 egg
¾  c water
1-1½  cup fermented kimchi, cut into thinner slices
¼ cup liquid from the fermented kimchi
2-3 green onions julienned into slices about 2 inches long
1 t roasted sesame oil
salt and pepper
canola, corn, or vegetable oil

1.  Combine the flour, egg, and water to make a thick batter.  Lightly salt and pepper the batter.

2.  Add sliced kimchi, the kimchi liquid, julienned green onion, sesame oil, and some more salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well to make a lumpy batter—which should take on a pinkish-orangish color.

3.  Heat a shallow and wide frying pan to medium-high with about 1 T oil.  (Oil should be hot enough that the batter sizzles a bit when placed in the pan.  Otherwise, the batter will absorb too much oil and not fry properly.)  When the oil is ready, mound some batter mixture in the center and spread out almost to the edges so that the pancake is a bit thicker than 1/3 inch.  Just like with regular pancakes, watch for the edges to start drying out a bit, getting a bit darker and more cooked than the rest of the pancake.  When it’s ready (probably about 3-4 minutes), gently flip over with a wide spatula and cook the other side until the inside is cooked (probably another 2-3 minutes).  Continue cooking and re-flip if the pancake is not brown enough for your (aesthetic) taste.

4.  Remove pancake, and repeat with the next.  When the pancake is cool enough to handle, slice into wedges or into rectangles.  Place on a serving platter and serve slightly warm or room temperature with the soy dipping sauce.

If you like these, you’re soon on your way to ever more exotic kimchi dishes like kimchi soup, kimchi stew, or my husband's favorite kimchi fried rice!


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