Indispensable Korean Scallion Pancakes — Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

Korean scallion pancakes -- a cinch to make with kimchi and any leftover veggies you have.
Korean scallion pancakes — a cinch to make with kimchi and any leftover veggies you have.

That quarter head of cabbage lingering in the fridge. The two carrots, once the epitome of crunch, now possessed of droopy ends. That once bright-white cauliflower head starting to go sallow. And those green onions now sadly going limp.

When I peer into my crisper drawer at home, it often feels like a race against the clock. Limiting my trips to the grocery store now means loading up with perishables all at once, each with its own limited life cycle. Tick, tick, tick. When I spy things beginning to wither, like Valentine’s Day roses after the bloom of the holiday has come and gone, I slump dejectedly.

But now, thanks to a genius recipe, I perk up immediately instead to the possibilities.

Because “Korean Scallion Pancakes” or “Vegetable Pajeon” was made for those bits and ends of veggies that hang around a little too long through no fault of their own.

Think Hanukkah potato pancakes gone Korean with kimchi instead.

Small-batch Vietnamese Tiger Sate chili sauces -- plus a chance to win three jars to try.
Small-batch Vietnamese Tiger Sate chili sauces — plus a chance to win three jars to try.

This genius recipe, published in 2019 in the New York Times, is by one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark. She learned the recipe from Chef Sohui Kim of Insa and the Good Fork restaurants in Brooklyn.

I was enticed by this recipe not only because it provides a fitting way to use up almost any veggie in the fridge — and a whole lot of them at once — but because it also incorporates potato starch in the batter. I happened to have a big bag of potato starch in the far reaches of the pantry that I’ve dipped into only once before, and that was to test a single sauce recipe. The fact that this recipe gave me a way to use up so many things at once made it a true win-win. (If you don’t have potato starch on hand, don’t fret. I’ve seen other recipes that use cornstarch in place of it.)

Any manner of grated veggies gets mixed into a batter of the potato starch, flour, an egg, baking powder, kimchi, and ice water. Carrots will add shots of orange color here and there to the pancakes, while kale will tinge them predominantly deep green. Let your inner Matisse go wild.

Frying up the pancakes.
Frying up the pancakes.

The batter gets ladled into a skillet. The pancakes get flipped so that both sides get crisp, and the interior becomes eggy-tender. You’ll end up with somewhere in the vicinity of 15 pancakes.

Crispy all over, and loaded with grated veggies.
Crispy all over, and loaded with grated veggies.

These pancakes are almost as satisfying as a dim sum dumpling — without the need for wrappers or for all that crimping work. That’s because you get to dunk them into your favorite dipping sauce, too.

This recipe includes instructions to make such a sauce. I, however, made my own, stirring together a splash of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and the new Tiger Sate sauce of which I had received samples.

This chili sauce is made by An Dao, a Houston medical researcher, whose story of ingenuity is to be admired, particularly in these challenging times. When the pandemic hit and work dried up, Dao decided to turn her attention to launching her own company, Pantry by Nature, to make the type of artisan, small-batch Vietnamese chili sauce she grew up on.

In appearance, Tiger Sate is reminiscent of those ubiquitous glass jars of chili-pepper-flecked oil found on the tables of so many Chinese restaurants. But the taste is far deeper and more complex, thanks to lemongrass, garlic, jalapeno, cayenne, and pepper flakes, all afloat in good olive oil.

Tiger Sate comes in three varieties: Mild, Medium, and Hot. You can easily tell which is which, too, because as the sauces get spicier, their color also turns more fire-engine red. These sauces pack a punch. Even the Mild left a decided warmth percolating at the top of my scalp.

The rich and bright peppery bite of the sauces get a little lost when cooked with, so they’re better suited to being stirred into a dipping sauce or finishing a dish. Dao suggests drizzling it on scrambled eggs, tofu, steaks, noodles, vegetables or even French fries.

A 4-ounce jar is $11 on the Pantry by Nature site. And a 3-jar sampler with Mild, Medium and Hot is $25. Through July 6, get a 20 percent discount with free shipping on any order by using the coupon code: FOODGAL.

CONTEST: One Food Gal reader will win a free 3-jar sampler pack of Tiger Sate Mild, Medium and Hot sauces (a $25 value). Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST June 27, 2020. The winner will be announced on the blog on June 29, 2020.

How to win?

Just tell me your most memorable experience involving spicy food.

Here’s mine:

“Years ago, I was attending a walk-around food event with my friend and renowned cookbook author Andrea Nguyen, the kind where chefs set up stands to hand out samples of a specialty dish to try. We noshed on all manner of Asian fare, before coming to one stand, where each little handout dish came garnished with a whole little grilled pepper. Andrea devoured the dish, pepper and all. When I asked her if the pepper was spicy, she shook her head ‘no.’ So, I followed her lead, and popped it into my mouth. It’s a sure bet that you can guess what happened next. That thing was incendiary HOT! Perhaps I had gotten the only explosive one in the bunch. Or maybe I vastly underestimated Andrea’s tolerance for heat. Either way, I steeled my expression, not wanting to let on that my whole face had ignited in a three-alarm blaze, and just swallowed in pitiful pain instead. I like to think that Andrea was never the wiser. I, however, certainly got schooled.”

Spicy Tiger Sate sauce makes for the perfect accompaniment to these addictive pancakes.
Spicy Tiger Sate sauce makes for the perfect accompaniment to these addictive pancakes.

Vegetable Pajeon (Korean Scallion Pancakes)

(Serves 3 to 4)

For the pancakes:

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup potato starch (or 1/4 cup each white rice flour and cornstarch)

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup ice water

1 large egg

¼ cup finely chopped kimchi

4 cups finely chopped or grated mixed vegetables (carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, kale, whatever you’ve got)

4 scallions, cut into 2-inch-long sections and thinly sliced lengthwise

2 tablespoons grapeseed or peanut oil, plus more as needed

For the dipping sauce:

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger or garlic (optional)

½ teaspoon sesame oil, plus more to taste

Pinch of granulated sugar

Prepare the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, potato starch, salt and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, combine water, egg and kimchi. Whisk kimchi mixture into flour mixture, and whisk until smooth. Fold in vegetables and about three-quarters of the scallions. (Save the rest for garnish.)

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Scoop 1/4 cup portions of batter into the skillet, as many as will fit while not touching, flatten, and fry until dark golden on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to fry until other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with a little more salt. Continue with remaining batter.

Before serving, make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, vinegar, ginger or garlic (if using), sesame oil and sugar. Sprinkle sliced scallion over pancakes, and serve with dipping sauce on the side. (Alternative: If you don’t have the band-with to make a dipping sauce, a drizzle of soy sauce and squirt of Sriracha adds verve without any work.)

Note: Serve pajeon by itself or topped with a fried egg or two, if you want to add protein.

From a Melissa Clark recipe printed in the New York Times, Oct. 30, 2019

For Kimchi Enthusiasts: Kimchi pancake

And: Korean-Inspired Pork Chops

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  • My most memorable spicy experience? That kind of becomes my best food experience, because I pretty much add spicy to every meal. My mom teases me about eating “red rice”.
    I think the one that gives me the best “wow” memory is a sauce my brother got from a student at his prep school in ojai- it is their family business, and is an amazing blend of soybean, chili, and peanut (if memory serves correct).
    It stands, to this day as the best condiment I have ever put on my food. I tried it in stir fry, straight on food, and it added an amazing umami bump to everything. Richly complex, salty, spicy enough to satisfy but not so spicy that I burned after the meal.
    I have searched in vain after I greedily gobbled the jar, and it’s just not readily available stateside 🙁
    Maybe this new sauce will be my next go to!

  • Stacie Fontinell

    My most current memorable spicy food experience is with hot sauce. We have recently discover Hot Ones on you tube. It has been around awhile and has “famous” guests eating progressively hotter chicken wings with hot sauce with the host, Sean Evans. Sean is a great interviewer! My friend decided to buy Da Bomb sauce (number 8 out of 10 sauces) and had us over for dinner. We had sandwiches with the sauce and I must say it is the spiciest thing I have ever had in my life. I had to have lots of ice after it. I do recommend hot ones Los Calientes hot sauce. It is hot, but not too hot, and has a bit of a sweet flavor.
    So my experience is with a spicy show and spicy sauce!

  • My most memorable experience with spicy food was watching my husband eat at a local Indian restaurant and there was one tiny pepper that was super hot for him, it was funny watching him guzzle tons & tons of water. He said it was the hottest pepper he’s ever had.

  • My memory is actually of my son when he was barely 18 months old. I always like to dice up some Thai bird-eye chilies and put them in a little soy sauce to eat w my noodle dishes. One day, we had finished our meal, but had left the little sauce dish with the chilies on the dining table. Next thing you know, I hear this loud scream and crying from my son, who had climbed up onto the table and reached his hands into the sauce dish to take a taste. When we got to him, he was frantically pawing his mouth to try to get the spice off his tongue. I couldn’t help but laugh though I’m sure, he was dying! We got him some milk, and eventually he calmed down. He can handle spice now, so I guess he started to build his tolerance really young.

  • I was in San Diego and we stopped by one of those sure to be yummy hole in the wall taquerias. I saw a few of the fellow in front of me grab one and pop them in their mouth. I thought I love hot and spicy and I’ll follow suite. I was so out of my league. That sucker was so hot, I immediately broke into a sweat and started salivating like nobody’s business. I could not have too much horchata. I just remember sucking on glass of ice cubes after glass of ice cubes. Needless to say I did not try a second.

  • When our office was in Downtown San Jose, I used to go to Hapa Musubi once a week or so. One day I was having lunch with a coworker and I mentioned a mutual friend. He said it was difficult, because every time they had a ‘serious’ conversation she would start crying, which was really uncomfortable. Then we started talking about a project I was working on for him. I was eating a spam and jalapeno musubi at the time and it was HOT. Suddenly tears were running down my face and I started sniffling. He looked at me and looked shocked so I had to tell him I wasn’t crying, I was just eating a really hot jalapeno. I’m still not sure he bought it!

  • My grandpa grew a fairly large garden in his backyard every year and we always helped him “harvest”. It was a large variety of things, from corn and tomatoes, to okra and squash, to cantaloupes and watermelons. One of the first years I was allowed to help, when I was 7 or so, I was picking jalapenos. and one of them was red, while the rest were green. I made the mistake of eating it on the spot. I am sure if I ate it now it wouldn’t be that bad, but at the time I thought I was near death!!

  • I grew up in south Louisiana where cayenne pepper is always on the table and in a recipe. When I was younger, I tended to believe: the spicier the better. But as I’ve aged I’m not as brave and tend to use a little more care in the amount I add. Last year my neighbor cooked soup and offered me a bowl. It was so spicy, so naturally my sinuses were opened. But I didn’t expect my ears to burn! I wasn’t use to that much cayenne, anymore.

  • I LOVE scallion pancakes! And haven’t made them for years. You have me starving for them now. Thanks. 🙂 (Oh, and spicy food? Probably the first time I bit into a raw chile pepper at a Mexican market. Don’t remember the variety but it was HOT! Learned a lot of chilies — and my heat tolerance — that day.)

  • Must. Make. Now!!! My spiciest memory was when I was in high school and joined a friend for some sushi. He ate the entire dollop of wasabi. The look on his face was priceless! Just yesterday I made a homemade batch of chile crisp. So great!

  • Your pancakes look so crispy and absolutely delicious looking. My hottest dish was at a Thai restaurant in Tampa. When they asked how hot I wanted it, I say medium which I always order. I didn’t notice that the dish was full of Thai bird chilies and I swallowed several all at once. My face turned red and I started choking. They apologized and said they had given me the wrong dish.

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