Saturday, March 5, 2011

Another Breakfast

Last time I posted a wonderful pancake recipe, and I have another one today, but it's very different, savory, not sweet, and full of healthy stuff with plenty of room for improvisation.
     Joe and I have the good fortune of having Korean friends who've introduced us to some amazing food! I love good food from all parts of the world, and whether cooking at home or dining out, Asian food is among my favorites. But I really wasn't very familiar with Korean food, and of course I'm no expert now, though I'm looking forward to further exploration! Joe's loved kimchee for years (along with salsa and ketchup, it's one of the three "red sauces" we always keep on hand--not counting Joe's version of his Italian Nonni's amazing "gravy" for pasta!), and we tried making our own once with a recipe from the Frugal Gourmet (it was not a success). But that and bul-gogi (barbecued beef) was pretty much the extent of our Korean food knowledge.
     Enter Seoul Kitchen, a tiny mom-and-pop restaurant here in Tucson, on Grant Road just east of Swan. A few weeks ago we were treated to a sample of Pa Jun, a pancake usually served as an appetizer or side dish, though we love it for breakfast or to take to work for lunch if we have leftovers.

   On this plate you can see Pa Jun large and small (roughly 6" and 2-3"). I think the small ones would be especially nice as appetizers. The condiments, from left to right, are chopped kimchee (the vegetable pieces are much larger in the jar when you buy it), soy sauce, and a soy-vinegar sauce (recipe below) that's also great on other dishes.  So here's my adapted recipe for Pa Jun, followed by the sauce. Disclaimer: although the more authentic and absolutely delicious Pa Jun at Seoul Kitchen was thicker and more breadlike, mine didn't turn out so  well when I made them like that the first time, so this recipe yields slightly thinner pancakes. To get the thicker pancake, one recipe I read suggested using a sauté pan rather than a griddle, so the sides contain the batter and since it doesn't spread, it stays thicker. I may try that next time.

Korean Scallion Pancakes (Pa Jun) serves 2-3 for breakfast, more as an appetizer or side dish.

You can tweak the added ingredients to your own taste or whatever vegetables, meat, or seafood you have handy. I've sometimes added finely chopped chiles, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, or kimchee, among other things.

1 c. flour (I use whole wheat, which is probably not traditional)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 to 1 cup water, enough to make a batter somewhat thinner than American pancake batter
1/2 tsp. salt 
1/2 bunch scallions or more, thinly sliced (more traditionally, halved lengthwise and cut in 2"-3" lengths)
other fairly finely chopped vegetables - today I added 1 medium grated carrot, about 1/4 c. chopped kimchee, and about half of a leftover cooked chicken breast, also fairly finely chopped
Oil for cooking, and/or cooking spray

Mix all ingredients together and let sit about 10  minutes. Remember, batter should not be too thick or the Pa Jun will not cook quickly and evenly.
    Heat a pan (I like a cast-iron griddle) over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of oil or pan spray.
    Pour enough batter on the pan to spread out in a thin layer and make a pancake the size you want. Six or 7 inches is a nice size and you can turn it without it falling apart. Cook for 3-4 minutes until set and golden brown on the bottom. As with American pancakes, you'll see bubbles form and burst at the edges, and the edges will firm up and look cooked.
    Turn with a spatula and cook 1-2 more minutes, until both sides are cooked. You may want to add more oil to the pan between pancakes or even spray the uncooked side with pan spray before turning.
    Serve with soy or spicy dipping sauce.

Spicy Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce (low salt is fine)
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 T. sesame flavoring oil (not the plain kind used for cooking - you want the intense sesame flavor)
1 T. crushed red chili flakes
1 T. thinly sliced scallions
    Mix all ingredients together. This will make more than you need, so store the leftover sauce in a small jar in the refrigerator - it's good on all kinds of things, like potstickers, dumplings, egg rolls, etc.

Here's a picture of Pa Jun cooking on the griddle. You can see the scallions, grated carrot, and little chunks of chicken. And here it is on the plate, drizzled with dipping sauce and with a spoonful of kimchee on the side.
It's a great way to start the day - hey, it's great any time of day!

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