D is for Dongnae Pajeon
Dongnae Pajeon (Korean scallion seafood pancakes) has its origin in the Dongnae region of Korea. Legend has it that the residents threw scallions that grew abundantly in the region, at the retreating Japanese army. Dongnae pajeon was created to honor that victory. And the dish was presented at the king’s table.
Scallion seafood pancakes must be one of the most popular items in any Korean restaurant. However, the regular haemul pajeon differs from dongnae pajeon in that while scallions and seafood are mixed into the batter for the regular haemul pajeon, they are layered and crisped for the dongnae pajeon.
The batter is made from a combination of glutinous and non-glutinous flours. I have used equal quantities of rice flour and all-purpose flour to make the batter for this recipe.
You can use a variety of seafood in the dongnae pajeon. Clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, squid, and scallops are all perfect for this dish. I have used shrimp and scallops for this version.
Traditionally, minari, a green leafy herb sometimes known as water celery or chinese celery, is an ingredient in the dongnae pajeon. As the pajeon is very flavorful even without the minari, I decide to leave it out. If you want to, you can use watercress in its place.
Being around Koreatown in Manhattan, I’ve eaten many a pajeon over the years. And I have tried to perfect the recipe and the method of preparing it.
The secret is to get the batter to the right consistency of a thin pancake batter. Then you start going across the scallion pieces in lines, till you have almost covered them. Almost, but not quite.
Then you quickly lay out the seafood over the batter and follow up with another set of lines of batter over the seafood. A drizzle of oil over that, and cover and cook for two-three minutes when it will be time to turn the pajeon over. You are almost there!
Serve with dipping sauce on the side.
To make the dipping sauce, mix together soy sauce (2 tbsp), rice vinegar (1 tbsp), mirin (1 tbsp), and gochujang, the Korean chili-soy paste (1 tbsp). If you prefer a less spicy dipping sauce, you can use any fermented soy paste instead of gochujang. On the other hand if you prefer it spicier, add a spurt of sriracha.
D is for Dongnae Pajeon
- Sieve together the rice flour, all-purpose flour and baking powder.
- Cut the green parts of the scallions in long pieces, 5 to 7 inches long. All pieces need not be the same length.
- Cut the shrimp and scallops into small pieces.
- In a bowl, beat the egg together with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and gochujang. Add one and a half cups of water and mix well.
- Add minced ginger and garlic to the bowl. Season with salt.
- Add the flour mix to the bowl and mix well. Add more water if required, to make a thin pancake batter.
- Heat a griddle on the stove top, on medium heat. Oil the griddle.
- Lay down a handful of scallion pieces in parallel on the griddle.
- Start drizzling the batter in lines across the scallions till they are almost covered.
- Quickly place the chopped seafood on top of the batter.
- Repeat with another layer of batter on top of the seafood. Make sure you stir the batter before each use as rice flour tends to settle at the bottom.
- Drizzle a teaspoon of oil on top of the pajeon.
- Cover and cook for two-three minutes.
- Turn the pajeon over and continue to cook, uncovered.
- Check after two minutes. When sufficiently crisp, remove from the griddle and serve hot with dipping sauce.
- To make the dipping sauce, mix together soy sauce (2 tbsp), rice vinegar (1 tbsp), mirin (1 tbsp), and gochujang, the Korean chili-soy paste (1 tbsp).