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Recipes for Korean-style pancakes

Fire up the skillet for a crispy, chewy snack.

Korean-style vegetable pancakes.
Korean-style vegetable pancakes.(Jim Scherer)

More often than I should while along my usual errands route, I duck into a Korean restaurant for a pancake. Great as a light meal, snack, or appetizer, Korean pancakes are commonly stuffed with vegetables, seafood, or kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage-based pickle I've come to love.

One of the pancakes' irresistible traits is their texture, thin and crisp on the outside, a little chewy within. While some batters use wheat flour alone, in my view that hallmark texture depends on the use of rice flour — now widely available, thanks to the gluten-free movement — along with the wheat. With a bag of rice flour on hand, the pancakes are easy to make at home, not to mention fun and satisfying to eat.

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For extra heft and lacy edges, you can pour a beaten egg over the pancake about 1 minute before flipping it, tilting the pan to let it run over the pancake's entire surface.

With their gently spicy, fruity flavor, thread-like pieces of Korean shredded red pepper are a popular addition to pancakes. Along with rice flour, kimchi, and a wide range of Korean ingredients, shredded red pepper is available at Reliable Market, 45 Union Square, Somerville, 617-623-9620.
With their gently spicy, fruity flavor, thread-like pieces of Korean shredded red pepper are a popular addition to pancakes. Along with rice flour, kimchi, and a wide range of Korean ingredients, shredded red pepper is available at Reliable Market, 45 Union Square, Somerville, 617-623-9620.(Mark Schou)

Korean-Style Vegetable Pancakes

Makes 2 roughly 7-inch pancakes; serves 3 or 4 as an appetizer or snack

1 medium-small zucchini (about 7 ounces), trimmed and cut into thin matchsticks (about 1½ cups)

Salt and pepper

¼ cup rice flour

1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon onion or garlic powder

1 large egg, beaten

¼ cup ice water, or more as needed

1½ teaspoons soy sauce

1½ tablespoons neutral oil

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 2/3 cup)

1 bunch scallions (about 8 medium), trimmed, whites thinly sliced and greens cut into 2-inch lengths (about 12/3 cups total)

¼ cup Korean-style shredded red pepper threads, optional

In a salad spinner basket set into its bowl (or colander set over a bowl), toss the zucchini with ½ teaspoon salt and set aside to drain, about 1 hour. Rinse zucchini and dry well using the spinner or paper towels.

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In a medium bowl, whisk rice and all-purpose flours, onion or garlic powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add egg, ¼ cup ice water, soy sauce, and 1½ teaspoons oil, and whisk to form a loose, smooth batter, adding more ice water by the teaspoon if necessary (up to 4 teaspoons) to achieve an applesauce-like consistency. Add prepared zucchini, carrot, and scallions, mix to coat vegetables with batter, and set aside to rest for about 5 minutes.

In a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1½ teaspoons oil until shimmering. Stir batter, add half of it to skillet, immediately spread it into a thin 7-inch round, sprinkle with half the shredded red pepper threads, if using, and cook, undisturbed, until well browned on bottom, about 4½ minutes. With a large spatula, flip the pancake and cook the second side, occasionally pressing down with the spatula and adjusting heat, if necessary, to avoid smoking or scorching, until second side is spotty brown. Slide pancake out of the pan and either set aside or cut into wedges and serve right away, while second pancake cooks. Add remaining oil to skillet and repeat steps to cook a second pancake. Cut pancake(s) into wedges and serve with dipping sauce, if desired.

> VARIATION

Korean-Style Seafood and Scallion Pancakes

Makes 2 roughly 7-inch pancakes; serves 3 or 4 as an appetizer or snack

Squid, shrimp, and scallops, individually or in combination, are common in these pancakes. Squid should be cleaned, with the bodies cut into ½-inch-thick rings and tentacles cut in half lengthwise. Shrimp should be large, peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise, and sea scallops should be dry (untreated), side straps removed, and cut into ¾-inch-thick slices.

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Follow the recipe for Korean-Style Vegetable Pancakes, making the following changes:

1) Omit the zucchini. Core, seed, and slice 1 small red bell pepper into thin matchsticks and substitute for the grated carrot.

2) Along with red bell pepper matchsticks and scallions, add 6 ounces squid, shrimp, or scallops, or a combination, prepared as described above, to batter and proceed with recipe as directed (when adding batter to pan, make sure no pieces of seafood are at the very edges of pancake, where they might fall off when it's flipped).

Korean-Style Kimchi Pancakes

Makes 2 roughly 7-inch pancakes; serves 3 or 4 as an appetizer or snack

Even after squeezing the excess liquid out of kimchi, it's still wet, which means these pancakes are more moist and a touch less crisp than vegetable or seafood pancakes.

1 cup (about 6 ounces) kimchi

¼ cup rice flour

1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

1 large egg, beaten

1½ tablespoons ice water, or more as needed

1½ tablespoons neutral oil

1 bunch scallions (about 8 medium), trimmed, whites thinly sliced and greens cut into 2-inch lengths (about 12/3 cups total)

In a strainer set over a bowl, squeeze the kimchi hard to express excess liquid (you should get about 3 tablespoons). Reserve liquid; chop the kimchi and set aside.

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In a medium bowl, whisk the rice and all-purpose flours, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add egg, 1½ tablespoons ice water, 1½ teaspoons oil, and 2½ tablespoons reserved kimchi liquid and whisk to form a loose, smooth batter, adding more water, if necessary, by the teaspoon (up to 4 teaspoons) to achieve an applesauce-like consistency. Add the chopped kimchi and scallions, mix to coat vegetables with batter, and set aside to rest for about 5 minutes.

In a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1½ teaspoons oil until shimmering. Stir the batter, add half of it to skillet, immediately spread it into a thin 7-inch round, and cook, undisturbed, until well browned on the bottom, about 4½ minutes. With a large spatula, flip the pancake and cook the second side, occasionally pressing the pancake down with the spatula and adjusting heat, if necessary, to avoid smoking or scorching, until the second side is spotty brown. Slide pancake out of the pan and either set aside or cut into wedges and serve right away, while the second pancake cooks. Add remaining oil to the skillet, and repeat steps to cook a second pancake. Cut the pancake(s) into wedges and serve with dipping sauce, if desired.

Dipping Sauce

Makes about 1/3 cup

Gochujang is a staple Korean red pepper paste that's spicy, roasty, and faintly sweet.

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

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2 teaspoons Asian toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon gochujang, sriracha, or other Asian chili sauce, optional

¼ cup thinly sliced scallion

In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and chili sauce, if using, with 1 tablespoon water until well blended and the sugar has dissolved. Add the scallion, stir to mix, and serve.


Adam Ried appears regularly on America's Test Kitchen. Send comments to cooking@globe.com.