Pancakes bring to mind images of fluffy, golden griddle cakes that should be soaked in maple syrup and topped with berries. But, what if you wanted something savoury, something a bit healthier? Then Korean vegetable pancakes or Yachaejeon (pronounced yah-cheh-jeeon) are your answer. And they have a bonus factor – absolutely delicious on their own or as an accompaniment to a meal.
I find this recipe remarkably useful when I want to create a vegetarian dish that needs minimal cooking fuss. Ten minutes at the most is all it takes and the ingredients are quite flexible. A quick snack, hot breakfast, lunch or work night dinner – Yachaejeon it is!
I first came across it when bingeing on K-drama and it made me curious. That quest led me to an online food vlogger Emily Kim who goes by the name of Maangchi. She is very good at helping you understand the principles of Korean cooking, which is at the core of any learning of a new cuisine. Once that is clear, you can adapt, change and experiment – exactly like learning the grammar of any language.
Maangchi has a couple of recipes for the pancake, which are great to check out. Here’s my adapted version:
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes
Ingredients for the pancake
1 cup sweet potato cut into sticks
1/4 cup carrot cut into sticks (you can swap with marrow)
3 spring onions cut into sticks
6 to 7 Ivy gourd or tendli cut into sticks
5 inches of a thick leek cut into sticks
1/2 medium onion sliced
1 green chilly sliced
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
1 tspn baking powder
Ingredients for the dipping sauce
1 tbsp Korean soya sauce (you can substitute with any light soya sauce)
½ tbsp vinegar
½ tbsp Gochujang chilli paste (this is available in stores and comes mixed with glutinuous rice paste, you can just substitute with ½ tspn chilli powder – based on spice tolerance level)
When you finish cutting the vegetables, you should roughly have about 3 slightly heaped cups of it.
Combine it with the flour, water, salt and baking powder. Rest for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, take a shallow 12-inch pan, let it heat up, then add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. The flame should be medium-low.
Now add the vegetable mix with a spatula. Spread it out to even thickness across the base of the pan. Let it cook without covering for about three minutes.
As the edges get cooked, you would be able to move the pancake around in the pan a bit. After the three minutes, gently flip it over using a large spatula.
Pour another tablespoon of oil around the edges. Lift the pancake a bit, so that the oil reaches the center of it too. Cover and cook for about two minutes.
Then uncover, press down gently and let it cook for another three minutes or so, till it becomes golden. Then flip, again, press down gently, cook till slightly crisp on the edges.
Slide onto a plate with paper towels, to absorb the excess oil. Stand for a minute.
Serve warm with dipping sauce made by combining all its ingredients.