Last year, in the 1.0 version of this newsletter that I unceremoniously deleted from the interwebz, I shared a recipe for a sourdough pajeon, or Korean scallion pancake. It was very popular at the time, and many people have asked me to republish it since then. In the interim, two important things have happened.
One: I developed a (non-sourdough) pajeon recipe for Cook’s Illustrated (which is about to drop any day now, will share a link as soon as it does). As a result, I learned a whole lot more about what goes into making a great Korean pancake, especially thanks to the excellent conversations I had with Korean-American chefs Beverly Kim (of Chicago’s Parachute) and Nanam Myszka (co-owner of Epiphany Farms Restaurants in Bloomington, Illinois).
Two: During my Instagram chat with fermentation guru Sandor Katz, he mentioned that one of his favorite things to do with “leftover” sourdough starter was to make vegetable pancakes by combining the starter with whatever vegetables he had on hand.
All those savory pancake conversations inspired me to finally get around to creating another Korean-inspired sourdough one for you all, and here it is. The batter is mostly sourdough starter along with potato starch for added crispness and baking soda to temper the acid and lighten the crumb. As for what can go into it, the sky really is the limit, as long as whatever you add is quick to cook through, cut or grated into small pieces, and you use 2 to 3 cups of it. The pancake in the image above is purple carrot, turnip, and scallion. Another combo that is in regular rotation Chez Wordloaf is grated potato and thinly-sliced onion, which makes for a sort of latke-Korean pancake mashup. And an easy one is straight-up chopped kimchi, in which you use the kimchi juices to thin the batter instead of water. Though the dipping sauce here is Korean, you could replace it with any number of other sauces (sour cream and applesauce, say).
Speaking of kimchi, sourdough, and fermentation, I found this recent Eater story on the unbearable whiteness of the fermented foods industry really interesting.
Sourdough Korean-style Vegetable Pancakes
Makes one 9-inch pancake, to serve 2 as an entrée or 3 to 4 as an appetizer
If your skillet is smaller than 12 inches, the recipe can also be made into two 6-inch pancakes instead.
You can use tapioca or cornstarch in place of the potato starch, though potato starch will provide the crispest texture.
As usual, the starter here can be of whatever vintage you have on hand.
The “extra” water in step 2 is there to thin out an overly thick starter. Don’t be tempted to make the batter too thin; it should be thick, but just able to flow slightly when poured.
If using kimchi, drain it well and chop coarsely. Use the drained kimchi liquid in place of some or all of the water in step 2.
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lightly-toasted hulled sesame seeds
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon gochugaru or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons potato starch
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 to 4 tablespoons ice-cold water, divided
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cup 100% hydration sourdough starter (about 240g), cold
2 1/2 to 3 cups thinly-sliced or grated quick-cooking vegetables such as carrot, zucchini, sweet potato, bell or chili peppers, potato, mushrooms, onion, scallion, leek, kimchi, etc.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl; set aside.
FOR THE PANCAKE: Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels and set aside. Whisk potato starch, sugar, pepper, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons water and garlic, and whisk until smooth. Add sourdough starter and whisk until smooth. If needed, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until batter is just thin enough to flow. Using a rubber spatula, fold in vegetables until mixture is evenly combined.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick or well-seasoned carbon steel skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Transfer batter to center of skillet and, using rubber spatula, spread evenly over surface and press to compact. Add 1 tablespoon oil to edges of pan and shake pan to distribute oil beneath pancake. Reduce heat to medium and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until batter at center of pancake begins to set and underside is golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Flip pancake. Add 1 tablespoon oil to edges of skillet and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to towel-lined plate. Allow to drain for 2 minutes, then transfer to cutting board, cut into wedges, and serve, passing dipping sauce on side.