While there are countless reasons we live in and love Santa Fe, there are but a few (and I do mean few) drawbacks. Constant dirt, dust and grit fall into the number one spot for me. Washing the car is often a useless task because tomorrow the car will look like it did before you washed it. Dust today, dust tomorrow.
In second place is the vast void of good Asian food. (You’ll have to drive to Albuquerque for that, and, luckily, we discovered a spot with addictive Szechuan green beans and damn good Chinese food!)
As a mostly-vegetarian eater, Asian food invariably yields generous options that are colorful, packed with flavor and still relatively healthy. Living in a veritable culinary Asian wasteland has forced me to stretch my culinary prowess and create dishes at home. However, Asian cooking is not my strong suit and I do long to change that.
Until then, Melissa Clark and her featured recipe in last Wednesday’s New York Times Food section provided the initial inspiration for a vegetable pajeon Korean pancake that lured me in like a hungry fish. The dipping sauce of tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil and fresh garlic and/or ginger was all I needed to be into these simple and savory pancakes.
The Universe Said Make These
And then I got another message. One that said the universe really wanted me to make these. How do I know?
Having lunch with friends at Cafe Fina last Wednesday, I ordered the corn fritters with shrimp. I had no idea what I was going to get, but surprisingly, these two, pillow light pancakes were extraordinary. Seriously, they were heavenly and I cleaned my plate. Shaped like a large breakfast pancake, these were filled with sweet and tender corn, served with chipotle marinated shrimp and topped with pico de gallo and sauteed zucchini sprinkled about. This was a dish I could eat every day. For breakfast or lunch, but this dish seems to be best enjoyed in the summer when corn is at its peak of freshness.
For the next few days, these heavenly pancakes were all I could think of. When I reread Melissa’s recipe to figure out what I needed to buy to bring this dish to life, I opted to change things up a bit. Having already made a few fires in the fireplace and the first significant snowfall last Monday, the Korean slant using root vegetables sounded significantly more appropriate for this changing season and cool, crisp weather.
How is it possible that the simple combination of shredded vegetables with egg, water, kimchi, gluten-free flour and potato starch turn into the most delectable and devourable pancake? Crispy and savory, these golden discs are made even better with the magic dipping sauce that explodes with flavor.
While I did have leftover batter, the following day I made another batch and even David was keen on eating more of these delectable pancakes. Light, tasty, crispy and golden, they are so good, you may feel a little guilty loving these so much. But fear not.
They can be tossed together in minutes, served long before a take-out order would even arrive at your house and happily use up whatever vegetables you have in the fridge makes this dish hard not to love.
The next time you have a hankering for something healthy and Asian-inspired, try these Korean vegetable pancakes and let your friends and family fall in love with vegetables all over again.
Korean Vegetable Pancakes
No matter what time of year it is, seasonal vegetables will work for these utilitarian Korean pancakes. Zucchini and corn in the summer and carrots, potatoes and cabbage in the winter, any day is a good day for these simple yet sensational pancakes. The dipping sauce is the bomb, so be generous and invite your favorite people over for this Korean treat.
For the pancakes
- 1/2 cup gluten-free flour I like Bob's Red Mill
- 1/2 cup potato starch or 1/4 cup of each rice flour and cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup ice-cold water
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup finely chopped kimchi
- 4 cups grated or finely chopped mixed vegetables try to go with what's in season--carrots, sweet potato, potato, cabbage and kale in winter; zucchini and corn in summer; or whatever you have in the fridge
- 4 green onions thinly sliced cross-wise or lengthwise and reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish
- 4 tablespoons tamari
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar plus more if needed
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons ginger and/or garlic finely grated
To make the pancakes
In a medium bowl, place all of the shredded, grated or thinly sliced vegetables.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, salt and baking powder.
In a glass measuring cup, add the water, egg and kimchi.
Whisk wet kimchi mixture into the flour mixture and blend until smooth.
Fold in the vegetables and two-thirds of the scallions, saving the rest for garnish.
Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons oil. Once the oil is hot, add 1/4 cup of the pancake batter to the skillet and continue adding so they don't touch. I was able to fit three pancakes at a time.
Flatten them a bit and let them fry until dark and golden on the bottom, 3-5 minutes. Flip and continue to fry on the other side until golden and delicious, another 3 or more minutes.
Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with a little more coarse salt, such as Maldon.
Place pancakes on a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with sliced green onions and serve with dipping sauce.
Reserve any leftover batter in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
To make the dipping sauce
In a small bowl, stir together the tamari, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and ginger and/or garlic. Allow to meld for a few minutes while the pancakes get crisp and golden.
Spoon dipping sauce generously over pancakes and enjoy.
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