Baechu Jeon (Savory Korean Pancakes With Napa)

Whenever I make a batch of baechu kimchi I purposely reserve the odd bits of the leaves, after they've completed brining, to make baechu jeon (a Korean term referring to a flour-battered then fried food item). 

I remember the first time I ever tried this dish. My mother made it for me when I came home to visit during my first few months away at uni. I arrived with a crap ton of laundry and to a home filled with the smells of a laborious kimchi making day, but also to the enticing aroma of frying jeon. I took a deep whiff and let out a relieved sigh. I was home.

Yet when she placed the plate of baechu jeon in front of me I was taken aback by the unappealing colorlessness of the pancake. I was befuddled. Was my normally food-fussy Korean mother going to feed her poor freshman daughter, who has not been home in 3 months, this bland pancake of doughy flour? 

"MAHT ISSUH (it's good)," she chuckled pinching my arm, "come to think of it you've never had this before hmm? It looks a bit off but it's tasty. Here, dip it in this. Eat."

I tore a piece off and dipped it into some cho jang (vinegared soy sauce). It was delicious. Seriously so delicious.

It was soft, savory and delicate, coating my mouth with nutty grease. The cabbage was sweet and full of flavor- a nice complement to the gratifying chewiness of carb-y flour. I asked for seconds. I was reminded again, thanks to that plate of unassuming baechu jeon, never to judge a book by its cover.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour (I prefer Gompyo brand flour)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 7 brined baechu aka napa cabbage leaves, torn (about 2 cups)
  • vegetable oil for frying

**Note- I brined the baechu leaves in salty water for about 4 hours.

Combine flour, water and salt and mix well with a whisk until the batter is smooth. The consistency will be thinner than American pancake batter and much more like crepe batter. To test, slide your finger across a wooden spoon dipped in the batter. If the line does not run, it's good.

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Test your batter.

Does it look this? All set!

Heat a large cast iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium heat. Let heat up completely before cooking. Drizzle a generous amount of oil into the pan (about 3 tablespoons). Dip baechu leaves into batter and lay them flat and closely together, but not overlapping too much , into the pan. It is okay if there are gaps between your leaves.

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A little batter will do it.

Ain't no shame in a few naked leaves.

Drizzle batter over gaps, smoothing out the batter evenly so all the leaves are "glued" together.

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Batter up.

 

Piece it all together.

Let the jeon cook for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden before flipping. Press down firmly with a spatula on the jeon to flatten. Don't be shy with it, a good jeon will be pressed well to achieve good thinness and chewiness.

 

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Press it to flatten.

Do this all throughout cooking!

Once both sides are golden and the baechu has softened, it is ready to eat! I slice mine into squares with a pizza cutter, but it is okay to tear off pieces as you go. Served with vinegared soy sauce. Great as an anju with makgeolli!