Juno Kim’s Favorite Korean Cold-weather Comfort Food: Kimchi Jeon

In Travel Stories by scott

Special Correspondent Juno Kim has traveled the world. But she was raised in Korea–so I asked her to share one of her favorite recipes. Scroll down and see how you can win a prize for sharing one of your favorite recipes…from here or from overseas! –Scott

Kimchi Jeon

In Korea, we associate food with every occasion. When we’re sick, for a wedding, for holiday ceremonies, for the New Year’s Day morning, when we’re too full, when the weather is gloomy, and so on. Food means much more than just the act of eating. We can even say that Korean culture revolves around food. 

Living in Alaska, when the temperature approaches zero degrees Fahrenheit, looking at the fresh snowfall and frozen trees, I often think about the comfort food for the weather. Growing up, when the weather was wet or gloomy, we always said “We should make pancakes today”. That was in everyone’s mind, no matter where you grew up or how old you were. We all agreed that hot pancakes were the ultimate comfort food on grey days. And it did the magic every time.  

I’m not talking about American-style pancakes: sweet, buttery, and fluffy. Rather, I’m talking about Korean pancakes we call jeon, pan-fried with oil and savory. There are countless kinds of jeon in Korea, but certainly, a few styles are the most popular. Mung bean and pork pancakes have been known as the comfort food of the common people, easily found in local traditional markets, often accompanied by a bowl of rice-fermented drink. Seafood and scallion pancakes are also widely popular. My favorite to eat in Korea are leek pancakes made by my mother. But my favorite to make in America on a gloomy day is kimchi jeon. 

As you can guess from the name, kimchi jeon is made with kimchi and other vegetables of your choice. You can always find some kind of kimchi in a Korean person’s fridge, like mine, so kimchi jeon is simple and easy to make. I like to make and share with others who also enjoy Korean food. To me, it’s one of the most Korean dishes. Ironically, it’s also the perfect food for winter in Alaska. When I see the snowfall, I can almost smell the greasy frying savory-smelling pancake. 

To add some flavor to your winter dining experience, I want to share my kimchi jeon recipe. I want to point out that I usually don’t use an exact recipe when I make this or any Korean dish. My grandmother never did. Neither does my mother or my aunts. Food is cooked with feeling and tasting. My culture taught me that the most important thing in cooking is to make the food the way you like it, not to follow the recipe. But I developed this recipe to teach others who wanted to make kimchi jeon for themselves. With a bit of variation, I’m sure you’ll be able to make the most delicious version of pancake for you! 

Simple ingredients

-Kimchi (well-aged): 1.5 cups (diced)
-Liquid from kimchi: 1/2 – 1 cup
-Regular flour: 1 cup 
-Rice flour: 1/4 cup
-1 egg
-Water: 1/2 – 1 cup
-Cooking oil (canola oil, refined olive oil, refined coconut oil, etc.)
-Soy sauce
-Sesame oil

-Gochujang (fermented red pepper paste)
-Gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
-Diced scallion
-Sliced onions
-Ground pork (a handful)

Mixing it up.

1. First, prepare kimchi. Any store-bought cabbage kimchi will do. I usually use well-aged kimchi to make pancakes with more flavor. Measure about 1.5 cups of kimchi and dice it until the cabbage is about a quarter-inch or smaller. Don’t throw out the liquid.

2. Beat the egg and mix it with liquid from kimchi and water. The total liquid should be about 1.5 cups. 

3. If you’re using gochujang and gochugaru to spice it up, mix one spoonful each into the liquid. 

4. Mix the flour and rice flour with the liquid. 

5. Pour in the diced kimchi and mix well. 

6. If you’re using additional vegetables, dice them well and pour into the mixture. If you’re adding ground pork, mix it in now. The consistency should be somewhat similar to melted ice cream. 

7. Heat a non-stick pan or well-greased frying pan on medium heat. Remember to use cooking oil. It’s different from making American style pancake on a griddle. A generous amount of frying oil is key to make it crispy and delicious. 

8. Using a ladle or measuring cup, drop the batter on the well-heated frying pan. Spread kimchi evenly.

9. When the edge is slightly brown, flip it. It’s ready when both sides are lightly brown. Cook it a bit longer if you’ve added ground pork. 

10. Serve it with a soy sauce and sesame oil mixture. 

Cakes on the griddle.

Yesterday was one of the coldest days in recent weeks, nearly 0 degrees! So naturally, I made some kimchi jeon. I decided to make it spicy, which was unusual for me. I used extra gochujang and gochugaru to spice it up. I shared it with my friend and enjoyed it while watching the pretty scenery outside. It’s funny how this small plate of food can make you feel immensely better. 

What about you, what do you make during the cold and gloomy days? 

What’s your favorite recipe? Is it from another country? Does it remind you of the last time you visited? Send it in. We’ve got some prizes, including a new “Planeket“, designed right here in Anchorage. We’ll publish some of our favorites. Extra credit for sending photos! SEND THEM VIA EMAILScott

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