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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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