Whether or not related to the fact that I am a self-declared born bread lover, I have always had a thing for pancakes - the many varieties of Chinese pancakes, the very own Malaysian version of peanut pancake better known as apam balik, my all-time favorite southern India pancake - the dosa, and not forgetting Japanese's okonomiyaki too. My very first experience with this Korean pajeon was just a little past two years ago. Hubby was the one recommending this to me dining out in one of our favorite Korean restaurants here, saying that I would love that. Crispy with each bite accentuated by the tender squid, scallops and shrimps, I was amazed with how the piquancy of spring onions brought about yet another tremendous flavor to the dish. Hubby was of course right about it, I do adore that piece of pancake especially when served with a salty, tangy dipping sauce on the side.
The idea of making it at home came only a year or more later, inspired by a friend, HueyShann when she made a couple of this during one of the few potlucks that we had had here. While the pancake mix is so readily available in the market, I had a pleasant surprise at my first attempt doing it from scratch. Needing nothing more than what I had already got in my very own pantry, preparing the batter mix was amazingly easy. The outcome was nothing less that satisfying, and soon I was convinced that pajeon is definitely something doable within the very comfort zone of home. Certainly comparable to those you get dining out, this is one of the few things that sometimes is really better homemade than having the professionals doing it - same good result minus the oil laden appearance possibility, plus generous topping readily customized to your personal preference.
Haemul Pajeon 해물파전
Makes 1 large pancake
1 cup frozen mixed seafood (a combination of shrimps, mussels, squids and scallops), defrosted slightly ahead of time
5 stalks of spring onions, rinsed and trimmed then cut halved in lengths (some of the thick white parts of the spring onions may have to be sliced and divided further into thinner shreds)
3 to 4 tbsps cooking oil
3/8 all-purpose flour
1/8 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp doenjang (Korean soybean paste)
1/8 cup light soy sauce
1/8 cup white rice vinegar
1½ tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk spring onion, chopped
1 birds eye chili, chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds
1. Prepare the dipping sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
2. To make the batter, sift the all-purpose flour and rice flour into a large, deep bowl. Add in the salt and sugar. Make a well in the middle. Break in the egg and add in the light soy sauce and doenjang. Whisk slowly and to mix. Add in the water and continue to whisk lightly, mixing in the flour mixture until a smooth batter is obtained. Add in the seafood and mix well.
3. Coat a large prying pan with oil and put on high heat. Once well heated, turn it down to medium-high. Carefully dip the spring onions into the batter lightly covering them before transferring them into the frying pan. Briefly arrange side by side forming a square occupying a good portion of the frying pan.
4. Slowly pour in the remaining batter over and around the bed of spring onions. Using a flat spatula, spread out the seafood making sure that they are evenly distributed throughout the pan. Working in a circular motion starting from the center of the pan moving outward, lightly press down on the batter to even out the thickness across the base.
5. Turn the heat further down to medium if necessary. Let cook until the pancake starts setting and browning underneath. Gently flip it over and let fry until it turns golden brown and especially the edge around the pancake starts looking crispy.
6. Tilt the pan slightly and wipe off any visible excessive cooking oil with a paper towel. Take a large plate and cover over the pancake. Carefully invert the frying pan to transfer the pancake. Remove the frying pan and voila! The pancake is all ready to be served.
7. Using a pizza wheel cutter, slice the pancake into individual portions and serve hot with the dipping sauce on the side.