These extra crispy pancakes are chock full of fresh veggies and shrimp, suspended in a slightly chewy fritter batter and then dunked in a sweet, spicy, savory dipping sauce. Hungry yet?
This flavor bomb of a recipe is inspired by the first and best crispy Korean pancakes (haemul pajeon) of my life, at Hae Woon Dae in the Buford Highway area of Atlanta. So many of my favorite food stories start in this little corner of the world, and this one is a classic.
Someday I'll write a book, and one chapter will be titled "The best things I ever found in the parking lot of a gentlemen's club" and this restaurant will lead the list. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you must stop and try it.
These savory pancakes make the best appetizers for happy hour, but they could also make an easy weeknight meal because of the volume of vegetables required and the flexibility of what can work. It’s ideal for a Thursday night when you’re eager to finish the last sad carrots, wilting bunch of green onions, leeks, red onions - any and all will work. You’re aiming for about 4-5 cups of raw vegetables (I know it’s challenging to measure precisely when your veggies are in sticks…good faith effort, people.)
Don't sleep on the Korean Gochujang Pancake Dipping sauce! It's a modified version of a classic soy dipping sauce. I’ve left it more concentrated and added Korean gochujang paste for extra kick. These Korean seafood pancake beauties can take a lot of spice, and this sauce does the trick.
What you'll need to make Korean vegetable pancakes with shrimp:
- leek, carrots and green onions
- self-rising flour
- corn starch
- ground ginger
- salt and white pepper
- small shrimp
- canola oil
Step by step instructions:
Start by cutting your leek, carrots and green onions into 2-inch julienned slices. I used a bag of pre-shredded carrots, which worked perfectly. Aim for 3-4 cups total.
To make the batter, combine one large egg and cold water in a mixing bowl and whisk well. Combine flour, cornstarch, ground ginger, salt, and white pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the cold batter into the flour mixture and mix just until combined (there will be lumps - don't be alarmed).
Pour the pancake batter over the julienned leeks, spring onions, shredded carrots. Stir, then add the small shrimp.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil in a large nonstick skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, add half of the pancake mixture (about 1.5 cups) to the hot oil directly in the center of the pan, ensuring vegetables and shrimp are evenly distributed around the frying pan.
After about 2 minutes, lower the heat to medium, and cook for another 2-4 minutes after turning down the heat, then flip. To flip easily, use a dinner plate to slide the cooked side of the Korean vegetable pancake from the pan onto the plate, then flip the uncooked side down into the pan.
Cook for a total of 4-6 minutes on the second side, using a spatula to check that you have achieved the crispy texture you want before removing from the pan. Move the finished pancakes to a cooling rack in a warm oven (200 degrees fahrenheit) while making the next pancake (batter should make 2 large pancakes).
Move the finished pancakes to a cutting board and slice into wedges or squares, top with cilantro and serve with Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce.
This is what you'll need to make the dipping sauce:
Heat for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir to ensure sugar has dissolved. Add sesame seeds, if using. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Sprinkle diced cilantro over the top of the pancake and serve with dipping sauce immediately.
Serving suggestions and variations:
The vegetable combination is flexible, based on your preferences. In general, I would try to ensure about half the total vegetables were an allium - onion, leek, shallot, or similar. But garlic scapes or garlic chives would also be delicious here, if you can find them, or a combination of carrots and garlic scapes. Finally, you could skip the fresh vegetables altogether and add diced and drained kimchi to the pancake batter. This strays from the original recipe and is known as a kimchi jeon at your local Korean restaurant. It is spicy and funky and an easy home run.
You could omit the shrimp and enjoy a chewy and crispy veggie pancake. But you have endless seafood options to add to this savory pancake, as well. You know that seafood mix in the frozen aisle of the grocery store that we never know what to do with? This is it, team! Break out the frozen mixed seafood and test it in this Korean pancake recipe. You could also use calamari, clams or a combination of all of them.
The self-rising flour and cornstarch combination creates a chewy pancake that is so reminiscent of that first Korean pajeon recipe I enjoyed in Atlanta. Rice flour can provide a similarly pleasing texture, but it has been harder to find in Lisbon. Since cornstarch is a pantry staple for me, it did the trick! If you only have all-purpose flour, supplement it with an extra pinch of salt and baking powder.
To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. To reheat, warm in a skillet with a teaspoon of neutral oil over medium high until heated through and crispy. Alternately, you can reheat on a rack in a 425 degree oven for about 8 minutes, until heated through.
Can I add something spicy to the Korean vegetable pancake batter?
If your party is spice-loving, adding fresh chili peppers to your vegetable mixture would be delicious, as well as dried cayenne spice powder or a teaspoon or two of sriracha. You can also increase the heat in the dipping sauce - the sugar and rice wine vinegar add a balanced flavor profile, even with the chili crisp and gochujang. For more heat, increase one or both of the pepper pastes, or add red pepper flakes. Serving the pancake with a side of spicy kimchi would also dial up the heat and round out your Korean meal perfectly.
What should I serve with this Korean Vegetable Pancake with dipping sauce?
I love this as an appetizer or happy hour treat. You can also serve it as a main dish with a side of kimchi and vegetables sauteed in sesame oil.
Do I have to make giant pancakes with this mixture?
You can make any size you like, just adjust the cooking time, as necessary. I have made smaller, ½ cup batter sized pancakes and they tasted delicious. Although I do recommend adjusting your pan size accordingly. The pancakes turn out best when you can fill the bottom of the pan, edge-to-edge, and let the batter build up around the sides of the pan while it cooks.
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