Without a doubt, one of the most popular Korean foods with natives and foreign foodies alike is jeon (전, pronounced juhn), the Korean answer to pancakes. Just like the pancakes you know and love, jeon are made using a batter of flour and eggs lightly fried in a shallow pan. However, Korean pancakes also have an added bonus—they're packed with vegetables, meat, seafood and more. Next time you visit a Korean restaurant, here are three pancakes you should pay attention (or, rather, atten-jeon) to on the menu.
If you know anything about Korean food, you've certainly heard of kimchi. This fermented cabbage dish is such a huge staple in Korean cuisine that many families in the country even have a separate refrigerator just for kimchi. As such, it's no surprise that they've combined it with jeon to create a deliciously tangy pancake. It's typically seen as a great way to use up leftover kimchi—not just to reduce waste, but because kimchi gets even more flavourful over time. That's why many Korean restaurants use aged kimchi to make their pancakes. One of the most fun things about this dish is that the kimchi stains the batter, giving the jeon a vibrant orange colour.
If you're in the mood for something protein-rich and delicious, you can't go wrong with haemul-pa-jeon. Wondering what this mouthful of a name entails? Haemul is the Korean word for 'seafood', while pa means 'spring onion', so you'll be getting a mouthful of meaty prawns, chewy squid, and fresh greens with each bite. The contrast of the rich, velvety pancake with the crisp onions and fresh seafood creates a combination no one can resist. If you're set on haemul-pa-jeon as a side, consider a noodle soup called kalguksu as your main. The anchovies and shellfish in this dish's broth pair perfectly with the pancake.
One of the most popular meat-based jeon in Korea, kkaennip-jeon will challenge your idea of what a pancake is. While the jeon mentioned above feature more batter than fillings, kkaennip-jeon has only a light coating of batter, with the filling making up the bulk of the dish. Inside the batter, you'll find aromatic beef seasoned with garlic and sesame oil. This meat filling is stuffed into perilla leaves, then dipped in the batter for frying. The result is a hearty finger food that goes great with a variety of dipping sauces, from soy sauce to chili oil. Try it as a shared starter while you wait for your main dish to arrive.
For more information on Korean food, contact a Korean restaurant near you.