Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Southwestern Style Korean Kimchi Pancake (김치전)

East meets Southwest in this sizzling hot dish
Southwestern Style Korean Kimchi Pancake

This Korean kimchi pancake, Kimchijeon*, adopts the okonomiyaki free spirit of mix-in-whatever-you-like while loosely following a Korean-Mexican fusion theme. Made with organic sweet brown rice flour, tangy sliced kimchi, spicy chicken chorizo sausage, fresh-cut Korean watercress, chopped red onions, hot chili peppers, and chewy Korean corn, the outside of this pancake is crisp while the inside is chewy like mochi. It’s the ultimate savory pancake, bursting with heat and intense flavor. Incarnated, this Southwestern Style Kimchi Pancake might be a Korean cowboy living in New Mexico. Ssssssss hot!

Not only encompassing fried savory pancakes but also other fried dishes, including egg-dipped vegetables and meats, 전 or chŏn/jŏn/jeons are often served as appetizers or side dishes. The batter is generally composed of wheat flour, ice cold water, and egg, although variations include pure or blends of ground skinned-mung beans, soybeans, corn starch, and sometimes, rice flour. I always prefer the non-wheat flour versions of pancakes because they have more character. The flavor and texture of nokdujeon (mung bean pancake), also called bindaetteok or bindaedduk, for instance, is very distinct, and when properly executed, the light golden bits of mung bean melt in your mouth. For today’s recipe, however, I selected a pure sweet brown rice flour base because I have a penchant for that sticky, satiating combo of meat and sweet glutinous rice. At dim sum, for example, one of my favorites is Hahm Sui Gock, a deep-fried, crispy glutinous rice flour dumpling stuffed with ground pork, Chinese chives, Shitaki mushrooms, and dried shrimp that resembles a miniature golden football you just want to punt into your mouth. You can think of my Southwestern Style Kimchi Pancake as being the healthier fusion, pancake version of Hahm Suey Gock. It’s also a delicious solution to the problem of leftover kimchi in your fridge.

Southwestern Style Korean Kimchi Pancake Recipe

~ Makes roughly a dozen 6-inch pancakes

Sweet brown rice batter
I bought a whole bag of organic sweet brown rice mochi gome from my local Nijiya market, but you can just purchase regular sweet rice flour at your local store. I recommend using a Pyrex 2-Quart Measuring Cup when measuring the water, mixing up and microwaving the mochi.

1 ¾ cups sweet brown rice, finely ground into flour
2 cups boiling water
1. Sift the sweet brown rice flour into the boiling water.
2. Mix well, breaking up any clumps, and microwave for 1 minute.
3. Mix well, breaking any clumps, and microwave for 40 seconds at a time. Repeat 5 times.
Southwestern Style Korean Kimchi Batter
Make sure to remove the excess liquid from the kimchi and washed watercress. You don’t want the batter to be too runny.

¾ cup ripe kimchi, squeezed to remove excess liquid
1 lb chicken chorizo sausage
1 Korean corn cut from the cob
2 bunches Korean watercress (minari), washed and pat or spun dried
1 small red onion, chopped
2 Korean hot red peppers, sliced
2 tablespoons red pepper threads (sil kochu), cut
1. Mix the ingredients listed above into the sweet brown rice batter.
2. Microwave another minute and mix well. Set aside to cool.
3. Cover and refrigerate the batter. Chilling the batter before frying it will create more crispy pancakes.
Frying the Southwestern Style Kimchi Pancakes
I recommend using either peanut, grape seed, or canola oil, but not olive oil. Olive oil does not have a high burning point, and when raised to a temperature past that burning point, it becomes carcinogenic.
1. On a medium fire, heat up a cast-iron or non-stick skillet with just enough oil to cover the surface of the pan.
2. Pour the pancake batter in and wait about five - seven minutes, watching the bottom of the pancake to make sure it doesn’t burn.
3. Flip the pancake and cook the other side for about four minutes.
4. Transfer to a plate. Do not stack the pancakes or place them on paper towels or they will stick. Enjoy immediately.

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