What is Korean Pancake/Jeon?
Crispy Jeon (Korean pancake) with spicy soy dipping sauce and Makgeolli (Milky Korean rice wine, Korean traditional liquor) are perfect combination for rainy day in Korea. I really enjoy the sound of heavens when I cook Jeon. When we make Jeon, we cook in a pan and it makes sizzling sounds, Korean people think this sizzling sound is similar to sounds of rain drops. That’s why Korean people enjoy Jeon on rainy days. We can beat the blues with Korean pancake, Jeon and Makgeolli when it rains. But actually rainy or not, Jeon can be a perfect soul food for you. There are so many different kinds of Jeon in Korea. We can enjoy Jeon as a Banchan (side dish) or an appetizer or an Anju (food served and eaten with drinks) or it can be a dessert as well. Jeon made by slicing fish, meat, poultry, seafood, flowers, Kimchi and vegetable, and then lightly frying them in a batter of flour and eggs. A lot of different kinds of ingredients can be used to make Jeon. Actually Jeon can be made from almost anything.
Regarding flour, I would recommend use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour to make Korean pancake, Jeon. Because cake flour has lower viscosity and protein content so texture would be different from all-purpose flour. Or If you go to Korean foods or grocery shop, you can easily find 부침가루(BUCHIMGARU (KOREAN PANCAKE POWDER) for Korean pancake, Jeon. Buchimgaru is a mix of different types of flour and other seasonings such as corn, garlic, onion, pepper and more. So if you want to make an authentic style of Korean pancake, you might need to use Buchimgaru. Korean pancake is a little bit different from American-style pancakes, which are not as versatile as Korean pancake. And Korean pancake is not sweet as American-style pancakes with maple syrup.
We can enjoy Korean pancake (Jeon) on daily base but we usually enjoy Jeon on big holiday, called Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving day. All family members gather together and make Jeon together to celebrate holiday feast. On morning of the day of Chuseok, family members gather at their homes to hold memorial services called Charye in honor of their ancestors. We need to put some foods to the table for Charye and usually we put a lot of different kinds of Jeon there.
If main ingredient is meat, we called Yukjeon (육전, "meat jeon") or Gogijeon 고기전. Donggeurang-ttaeng (동그랑땡, (Korean Style Meatballs), bite sized Jeon is the one of the most popular Jeon in Korea. And it made by ground pork or beef, tofu, vegetables coated with flour and egg. It is popular choice for Charye, ancestral rites, and side dish.
If main ingredient is seafood, we called Saengseon-jeon (생선전, "fish jeon") is a generic term for any jeon made of fish. White fish are usually preferred. Haemul-jeon (해물전, "seafood jeon") includes the jeon made of fish as well as shellfish, shrimps, and octopuses.
If main ingredient is vegetable and mushrooms, it would be perfect for vegetarian. Chaeso-jeon (채소전, "vegetable jeon") is a generic term for any jeon made of vegetables. There are several popular vegetable Jeons in Korea. Gamja-jeon (감자전) is made by potato and Pajeon (파전) is made by Scallions. We can make diverse vegetable jeon using Kimchi, tofu, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, or mugwort etc.
If main ingredient is edible flower, we called it Hwajeon (화전, "flower jeon"). It looks really pretty and sweet taste. So it’s perfect for dessert.
Different types of Korean pancake / Jeon
There are a lot of different types of Jeon. Just read the follow list and try your favourite taste. I seperate them into the main ingredients. If you are vegetarian, directly skip to the veggie jeon.
Main ingredient Meat
Kkaennip-Jeon made with Perilla leaves, it contains meat inside of the leaves. This stuffed Perilla leaves Jeon are a unique Korean style pancakes. It is well go with rice and kimchi as a side dish. Perilla leaves are stuffed with minced meat and then pan fried after dipping in seasoned egg batter. This crispy Kkaennip Jeon perfect with dipping sauce made by soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil or chili pepper.
완자전 (Wanja-Jeon) / 동그랑땡 (Donggeurang-ttaeng)
This is a kind of Korean style of meatballs. It’s a cute round shape so you can enjoy as one bite snack. To make Korean style meatballs, we need mixture of grind beef and pork with tofu. We also need finely chopped vegetables such as onions, carrots and scallions. We simply mix all ingredients together by hand. And then make a small round shape for pan fry. It can be really popular side dish for lunchbox.
If you want to enjoy both meat and vegetables, Kkochi-jeon is perfect for you. It’s really healthy and delicious. We usually make this Skewered vegetable jeon (Kkochi-Jeon) for Korean Thanksgiving day. What we need is all different kinds of vegetables and some meats or ham. We cut every ingredients in similar sized and skewer them to toothpick. We usually use meat, beef and mushrooms, ham, scallions, crab sticks for Kkochi-jeon but you can add more ingredients whatever you want. So recipes can be diverse depends on household.
Main ingredient Seafood
해물파전 (Haemul pa-Jeon)
Haemul pa-Jeon is one of the most classic Korean pancakes in Korea. Haemul means seafood in Korean and Pa means Scallion in Korea. It’s perfect with Makgeolli. If you go to Kalguksu restaurants, you can find Haemul pa-jeon easily. Kalguksu is a Korean noodle dish consisting of handmade, knife-cut wheat flour noodles served in a large bowl with broth and other ingredients such as vegetables, mushrooms and seafood. Haemul Pa-Jeon is really nice by itself but if you want to enjoy as a local, I highly recommend try with Kalguksu together. To make Haemul Pa-Jeon, Scallions are really important for this dish. You can make vegetarian version of Haemul pa-jeon as well. We usually put some seafood with scallions for Haemul pa-jeon. We use squid, prawns or meat (thinly sliced pork belly). It’s really delicious and flavorful. It perfect with rice or noodles as a side dish or it can be a main dish as well. As you know you can twist this dish with your own recipe. So you can add more vegetables or other ingredients as well.
Sangseon means fish in Korean. Korean people usually make Sangseon-jeon with fresh flounder or cod but actually any white fish can be good for this Korean pancake. It’s is good with spicy dipping sauce for extra taste or its good with plain soy sauce as well. People usually make with boneless fish so even kids and elders can enjoy freely without any worries.
Gul is oyster In Korean so main ingredient for Gul Jeon is oyster. You can get oyster in Korea very easily with affordable price. We love to add oysters in all different kinds of foods such as kimchi, soups, rice or porridge, and even we make pancake using oysters. Actually we don’t need a lot of ingredients for oyster pancake so it’s really easy to make. We only need fresh oyster, green onions and chili as a main ingredient for Gul Jeon. You can enjoy yummy and tangy Korean pancake with easy way of cooking.
Main ingredient Vegetable
Hobak means pumpkin in Korean. But we usually use specific types of pumpkin for Hobak Jeon. We use zucchini for Hobak Jeon. It goes with almost every Korean meal as a healthy side dish. You can find very easily Hobak-Jeon on Korean household tables. And it’s one of the most popular healthy versions of side dish for lunch box as well. The zucchini is coated in a thin batter of flour and egg, and served with soy sauce for dipping. Simple and quick!
Gamja means potato in Korean so you can guess ground potato is main ingredient for Gamja-Jeon. It’s quite simple and humble side dish or I can be a main dish as well. You can also add some vegetables such as garlic chives, onions, scallions or chili peppers. But it’s up to you. Potato is very delicious especially from Gangwondo province in Korea. So if you want to get fresh and nice potato, always choose potato from Gangwondo in Korea.
If you need nice snack but if you don’t have enough ingredients at home. Kimchi-Jeon is perfect for you. Basically you only need leftover kimchi and Buchimgaru for kimchi-Jeon. As you know kimchi is staple dish in Korea. So I believe you can find easily Kimchi in Korea. It’s really nice with SoJu. We usually use Baechu-Kimchi (cabbage kimchi, a most quintessential side dish in Korea) for Kimchi-Jeon. As you know we have a lot of different kinds of Kimchi in Korea. If you want to put more ingredients such as onions or meat, you can add more ingredients whatever you want and then you can enjoy your own style of kimchi Jeon. I prefer enjoy kimchi jeon without any dipping sauce. Because it is already quite salty enough for me and I want to enjoy authentic taste of kimchi from kimchi pancake. So, dipping sauce actually can be optional.
Pyogo Jeon made by mushrooms. We specially use special mushrooms called pyogo beoseot which is shiitake mushrooms. As you can guess it’s really healthy version of Korean pancake.
Yeongeun is Lotus roots in Korean. If you think Lotus roots are a little bit unfamiliar with you. It tastes like a chewy potato and a sweet radish. If you keep chewing the roots, you can feel sweetness from there. Its healthy version of Korean pancake since Lotus roots are really healthy and it is good for blood circulation. You can braise the lotus roots with sauces or you can pan fry lotus roots with Buchimgaru to make Korean pancake for side dishes.
Gaji is egg-plant in Korean. It’s really easy and simple side dish as Jeon. Eggplant slices coated with flour (Buchimgaru), dipped in egg, and pan-fried. We usually use long slender Korean egg-plant for this Jeon. It’s very soft texture and fresh taste.
Dubu means Tofu in Korean. If you want to skip eating meat for a day, tofu can be a perfect alternative option for you. For Dubu-Jeon, main ingredient is tofu as you can guess and some vegetables such as onion, pepper, carrot, zucchini, chili pepper etc. Just mash the tofu using hands and chop all the vegetables and put eggs and flour (Buchimgaru) and then mix all together. And then pan fry the mixtures. We usually enjoy round shape of Dubu jeon but there is no certain rule for that so you can make whatever shape you want. Some people do not mash the tofu and just use tofu itself by cutting or slicing the tofu. And then it mix with Buchimgaru and pan fry. It can also be Dubu Jeon as well. It’s really mid flavor so it’s great side dish with spicy foods to ease your stomach.
Main ingredient Flowers
Hwa-Jeon simply made by glutinous rice flour, edible petals from seasonal flowers such as rhododendron with honey. And it is usually sweet. And it’s too pretty to eat. So, it can be the best dessert for after meal and it can be the festival dish in Korea. I believe this beautiful dessert can boost your energy for today.
Spicy Dipping Sauce for Korean pancake
As you can guess, we need proper dipping sauce for Korean pancake. Sometimes Korean pancake is a little bit oily so if you want to enjoy Korean pancake properly, we might need spicy dipping sauce and it would be good balance for your pancake taste. I always enjoy spicy dipping sauce whenever I eat Korean pancake. Actually Jeon, Korean pancake can be great dish with a lot of different kinds of dipping sauces such as plain soy sauce or ketchup but I think spicy soy dipping sauce would be my go-to dipping sauce with Korean pancake. It is really easy to make, we only need soy sauce, rice vinegar, onion, garlic and jalapenos or chili peppers for spicy soy dipping sauce. If you don’t like spicy you can skip jalapenos or chili peppers. As you know, it can be diverse depends on your ingredients and recipe.
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