Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kimchi Pancakes: A Qualified Success

I grew up in a house with a considerable taste for all things pickled and salty. We always had a jar of spicy pepperoncini in the fridge, and on holidays Mum's family, especially, always had an elaborate spread of pickled watermelon rinds, olives, cornichons, etc. So I guess it's no wonder that I took to kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) like white on paper. The first few times I had it, I ate it plain along with dinner at Korean restaurants. My love grew when, about a year ago, I made the Amateur Gourmet's fabulous Kimchi Fried Rice on one especially monetarily desperate evening.

Recently, at the Greenpoint Food Market, I had the good fortune to try Kimchi Pancakes from Bing Means Pancakes. These were very similar to scallion pancakes--light and chewy pancakes with a delightful crunch from the handmade kimchi. Afterward, I couldn't stop thinking about them, and, on my next visit, I was sorely disappointed that Bing had either packed up early or had not come at all. My craving was in high gear and getting desperate, so, as you can imagine, I was excited to see this blog feature a NYTimes recipe for them.

I was a little put off by the inclusion of potato starch in the ingredient list. What was it? Would I have to trek all over hell and creation to find it? Would I ever use it again? Or would it sit on my shelf for years, only to be picked up during cabinet clean-outs, accompanied by the question: "What in God's Name did I buy this for?" Well, I don't know if it was luck, or if Polish people use a lot of potato starch, but, just as I was giving up on finding it, and was even looking up a different recipe on my phone, I took one last look at the baking shelf--and there it was. Eye Level. Srsly. Right in front of me, in very nifty packaging that should have caught my eye right away.

I can't tell if this is sincerely retro or faux retro, but I don't care. Love. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, potato starch smells like potatoes but looks like cornstrach. And no, I don't have any idea what else to do with it.

Ultimately, this recipe was a little weird. Once I had all the ingredients mixed together, except for the kimchi, I had a very, very dry looking batter. I was really concerned that I was about to have a giant fail. But, almost magically adding the kimchi and its juices made the batter just as goopy as I wanted it to be. Bizarre.

My pancakes, while yummy and craving-dampening, did not come out as uniform as the blogger's, nor were they even close to the heaven of the GFM ones. The level of satisfaction I gained from them would, normally, encourage me to add them to my "oh shit it's 9pm on a Sunday and only the bodega is open" dinner arsenal. However, though my corner store has very good kimchi, I feel like expecting them to carry potato starch is a little far-fetched. So, I probably won't be making these again. The search for a good kimchi pancake recipe continues....

Here is the NYTimes recipe, if you're interested:


1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon minced scallion

1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds


1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 egg

2 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, sliced thinly

1 1/2 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder or 1/2 tablespoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup prepared cabbage kimchi, cut in 3-inch-long pieces

2 tablespoons kimchi juice

6 tablespoons vegetable oil.

1. Make dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, scallion, sesame seeds and one-half tablespoon water. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, potato starch and egg until smooth. Add scallions, garlic, red pepper powder, salt, kimchi and its juice. Mix well. Batter will be pale pink.

3. Place an 8- or 9-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. When oil is hot, pour in one-third of the pancake batter. Fry until golden and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Lift pancake with a spatula, add 1 tablespoon oil to pan and swirl it. Flip pancake and fry other side until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip again, without adding oil, and fry for 1 minute. Flip one more time and fry 1 to 2 minutes. Pancake should be dark gold.

4. Repeat with remaining batter and oil, making 3 pancakes. Remove to a large round plate and cut each pancake into 6 wedges. Serve with dipping sauce.

Yield: 3 pancakes.

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