Yachaejeon (Korean Vegetable Pancake)
Updated: Jul 31
Hi internet, today I'm going to tell you about a recipe I've made at least 10 times in the past couple of months. It's incredibly satisfying and yummy, especially on a cold night after work.
For the pancake
-4 scallions, cut up into 1-inch sections
-3 oz (or 3/4 cup) well diced onion
-3 oz (or 1/2 cup) zucchini, sliced into 1-inch-long matchsticks
-1/3 cup leek, sliced into 1-inch-long matchsticks
-1/3 cup sweet potato, sliced into 1-inch-long matchsticks
-1/2 jalapeno pepper (1 full pepper if you're good with spiciness; can skip it if you can't tolerate spice)
-1 mushroom, sliced
For the sauce
-1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce and it's excellent)
-2 teaspoons white vinegar
-1 teaspoon sesame seeds (I use 1/2 teaspoon because I'm technically allergic to them)
-1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes) (optional but highly recommended)
-3/4 cup water
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-3 tbsp vegetable oil
Cut up all of your vegetables for the pancake. Many of them require being cut into 1-inch-long "matchsticks." There's a technique to make this more efficient that I'm only starting to get the hang of. I try to slice the vegetable into layers and then cut the matchsticks from the layers that are stacked on top of each other.
Once you've cut up everything, place into a large bowl.
Add the flour, water, and salt, and mix well with a wooden spoon. I don't have a wooden spoon so I use chopsticks. I also don't know if the wooden part matters, but the original recipe specifies this and using a metal spoon didn't turn out as well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Now it's time to heat up your skillet. The original recipe calls for one pancake, in one skillet. This makes an enormous pancake and I could not for the life of me figure out how to flip it. So what I do is make 2 pancakes, in 2 skillets. This way they are much easier to flip and they also seem to fry better.
Another point of confusion (there are many for this recipe). The original chef specifies to use a non-stick skillet. However, I've learned that my non-stick skillet doesn't tolerate high temperatures, and this recipe goes a little high in temperature. Are there non-stick skillets that tolerate high temperatures well? If you know, please comment.
So depending on your flipping ability, heat up 1 or 2 skillets over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Place 2 tbsp vegetable oil (so 1 tsbsp in each skillet if you're using 2) and turn skillet(s) to coat evenly.
Lower your skillet(s) to medium. Then place your batter in your skillet(s) and press with a spoon or spatula to make a pancake. Press in your slices of mushroom. This will let them emboss into the pancake as it cooks.
Let the pancake cook for 5 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the sauce: combine and mix soy sauce, vinegar, sesame seeds, and optionally gochugaru in a ramekin or small bowl.
Then let the pancake(s) slide a bit in the pan by shaking the pan, and add 2 tbsp total (or 1 tbsp in each skillet). Flip with a large spatula, or without one if you're good at flipping.
Slightly increase the temperature and let the pancake(s) cook on this side for 4 minutes. Then flip again and let cook for 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat and serve with the dipping sauce.
The pancake is crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. It has a really wonderful taste of alliums (onion/garlic/leek family) that have been cooked, bringing out their sweetness. The sauce is actually very important for this meal because 1) it provides the salt in the dish, 2) its flavor is powerful and incredible, and 3) it pairs so nicely with the milder taste of the fried pancake. I recommend getting a good soy sauce for the dipping sauce if you can, it makes a difference.
This recipe taught me a lot. It taught me I need to work on flipping things, and that non-stick pans should be treated with caution. It took me at least 3 times to get a pancake that was properly fried and looked nice. So if you're struggling a little, be patient, the pancake spirit will come to you.
Thank you for reading. Happy Holidays and have a Happy New Year.