These crispy fried scallion pancakes from chef Hooni Kim, traditionally paired with a refreshing makgeolli, or Korean rice beer, can be a vehicle for any number of ingredients. Instead of, or in addition to, the scallions, you can fill pajeon with garlic chives, ramps, chrysanthemum leaves, small squid, shrimp, thin slices of Korean chile, or julienned carrots. To get the pancakes as crispy as possible, make sure the batter is very cold and the pan smoking hot and slicked with plenty of oil.
For the pancakes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 cup cornstarch
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tsp. minced fresh garlic (from about 3 cloves)
- 1 tbsp. doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
- 2 large egg yolks, beaten
- 2 cups ice-cold club soda
- 3 bunches thin scallions, green and white parts cut into 2-inch batons (7 cups)
- 1 cup grapeseed or canola oil, for frying
For the dipping sauce
- 4 1⁄2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. mirin
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. rice vinegar
- 1⁄2 tsp. sesame oil
- Make the pancakes: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pepper; stir to blend.
- In a separate small bowl, add the soy sauce, garlic, doenjang, and egg yolks; whisk to combine. Add this mixture and the club soda into the dry ingredients. Whisk about 10 times, then transfer to the freezer and let rest 10 minutes (this will help any remaining clumps incorporate).
- Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk the soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- Retrieve the batter and fold in the scallion pieces. If the batter is too thick, add more club soda, 1⁄4 cup at a time, and mix well.
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels, and set it next to the stove.
- In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1⁄2 cup of the oil over high heat. Once shimmering, carefully add 1 cup of the batter to the center of the pan. Using a spatula, spread to form a 7-inch pancake; avoid letting the batter touch the sides if possible (to prevent the edges from burning before the center is cooked through). Lower the heat to medium and cook until the bottom of the pancake has set, 2–3 minutes. Gently slide a spatula under the edge of the pancake and lift it, tilting the pan so some of the hot oil runs underneath the pancake. Cook until the bottom is crispy and deep golden brown, 2–3 minutes more. Carefully flip the pancake, being careful not to let the oil splash, and cook on the remaining side until golden brown and cooked through, 3–4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, letting the paper towels absorb any excess oil.
- Place the pan back over high heat, and add 2–3 tablespoons more oil if needed. Repeat the process until all the batter is used. To keep the finished pancakes warm and crispy, set them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a low (200°) oven. Cut each pancake into pieces and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.