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Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchi Pajeon)

Flavor party!

Two (6½-inch) pancakes, serving 3 or 4 as an appetizer


About 40 minutes, start to finish


When you fold kimchi into a rice-and-wheat-flour batter, something in its temperament changes. The kimchi goes from in-your-face sharp and racy to a smoother three-dimensional spiciness that vibrates with heat and throws sparks of sour and sweet. The pancake cushions the kimchi’s fall. With fresh scallions for a show of brightness, chopped raw shrimp for bounce and seafoody sweetness, and a crisp exterior that yields to interior softness, the texture and flavor combinations in this recreational snack possess what math nerds would label “n factorial” and the rest of us would just call “crazy complex.” Extraordinary, considering that kimchi pancakes rose out of rainstorm entertainment in rural Korean farm culture. Farmers don’t work when it rains. No work in the fields means party time, accompanied by a serious kimchi pajeon and rice wine throwdown. Thanks, Dawn, for this ancient Korean dump-and-stir batter that even a child can make. 

Cooking Remarks

Kimchi pancakes are a terrific way to use kimchi that has fermented past your tolerance for tart. In fact, the tangier the kimchi, the tastier the pancakes. Drain the kimchi before measuring it: put it into a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and press down with a rubber spatula to extract excess juice. Whatever kimchi and juice you don’t use may be returned to the jar. The kimchi for the pancake should be more stemmy than leafy—75/25 is a good mix.

The only tricky part of this recipe is the release and flip. Get yourself a nice, broad spatula and don’t attempt to turn the pancake until the bottom has cooked enough to give the pancake integrity. If you’re using a cast-iron skillet, be sure that it’s nicely seasoned. A nonstick pan is also a good option.

  • for the sauce:

    • tablespoons soy sauce
    • tablespoons water
    • 2
      teaspoons toasted sesame oil
    • teaspoons rice vinegar
    • teaspoons sugar
    • 1
      scallion, green part only, thinly sliced
    • ½
      teaspoon Anson Mills Sea Island Benne Seeds, toasted (optional)
  • for the pancakes:

    • 2.3
    • 1
    • ½
      teaspoon fine sea salt
    • ½
      teaspoon sugar
    • ¼
      teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 6
      ounces (1 scant cup) well-drained Mak Kimchi (see Cooking Remarks), coarsely chopped
    • 3
      slender scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, dark green tops cut into ¾-inch lengths
    • 3.5
      ounces (7 tablespoons) ice water
    • 2
      tablespoons kimchi juice
    • 6
      ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into ⅜-inch pieces
    • tablespoons grapeseed oil

    Make the sauce: In a ramekin or sauce dish, combine all of the ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside until ready to serve.  


    Make the pajeon: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, sugar, and pepper. Add the kimchi, scallions, kimchi juice, and water and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined. Add the shrimp and stir until evenly distributed. Pour half (about 9.5 ounces or 1 cup) of the batter into a small bowl (portioning it now means you won’t have to at the stove top). 


    In a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet, warm 1½ tablespoons grapeseed oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Swirl the pan to coat to the surface. Working quickly, use the rubber spatula to scrape one portion of the batter into the center of the skillet in a mound (fig.3.1), and then quickly spread the batter into a 6½- to 7-inch round of even thickness with a small offset spatula; it’s fine if the round and its edges are not perfect. Cook for 3 minutes, and then carefully slide a wide metal spatula under the pancake to loosen it from the pan. Rotate the pan 180 degrees on the burner (to even out the cooking if there are hot spots) and continue to cook until the pancake is deeply browned and crisp, about 2 minutes longer. Carefully flip the pancake with the metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes (fig. 3.3). Once again loosen the pancake and rotate the pan. Continue to cook until the second side is dark spotty brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the pancake to a cutting board (fig. 3.3) and let cool for about 3 minutes to allow the starches to set up. Cut into wedges and serve with the sauce (with a small spoon for drizzling it on). Meanwhile, cook the remaining batter in the same way, using the remaining 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil. 

    1. 3.1
    2. 3.2
    3. 3.3