Monday, July 23, 2007

Adventures in Korean Food: Pa Jun, Take 1

AN ODD COMBINATION of Jeanie and Becky conspired to foster my newfound love for Korean food. A few years ago, it was Jeanie's office-talk of kim chee. Becky then returned from Seoul raving about bi bim bop. After recently having enjoyed the latter, I joined Jeanie in Koreatown for the former, and my obsession was complete. Jeanie's mother sent me the Cha family recipe for pa jun the next morning:

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour
5 green onions
Black pepper
Vegetable oil

"The secret to this recipe," wrote Jeanie's mom, "is to use very cold water," for a super-crispy texture. With this in mind, I put a chunk of ice in a glass of water and left it in my freezer while I sifted the flours and sliced the green onions (diagonally, into 1 1/2-inch pieces), then stirred all throughly with my super-cold water and pepper. Um, how much water?

On this matter, Mama Cha instructs to add water, "until the mixture is the consistency of thin pancake batter." This takes some fine-tuning, which is why this post is titled "Adventures in Korean Food" and not "RECIPE! Pa Jun." I used one cup of cold water. I felt this produced a "thin pancake batter" consistency. Of course, there's yet the matter of cooking the pa jun, so we're not out of the woods just yet.

Cooking is simple enough. Use enough vegetable oil to "thinly cover" the surface of your frying pan, heat the pan on medium-high, and drop in half the batter. Cook to golden brown; flip and cook other side accordingly. Keep the heat low to prevent burning. If this sounds familiar, the informally translated name for pa jun, "Korean pancake," suggests why.

My pancakes turned out a tad bland and a little too sticky. The first of these concerns was expected--I used no salt, seasonings, or the more traditional kim chee (spicy fermented cabbage) or marinated seafood on my first try; I tried a little garlic powder, salt, white pepper, and red pepper in the batter and the fried the second of my two attempted pancakes with a little sesame oil to boost its flavor.

As for the "too sticky," it seems to me that I need to use more water. I'll notch up my almost-frozen liquid content to 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 cups next time and see how that works. After that, all I need to do is chop some cabbage, buy some glass jars, and pickle me some kim chee. But that's an adventure for another day.


Marc Choi said...

Perhaps I should ask Mama Choi what her recipe requires. Then, we'll have a Pa Jun Cookoff! Mine are going to be Asian Fusion Pa Jun, as I will include chocolate chips and bananas, as well as a soy sauce reduction for dipping. I hear someone barfing...

Mike said...

Ha, soy sauce reduction. That sounds... um, salty! I like the idea though. We could certainly hold a McChoi Korean BBQ Cookoff. Jeanie and Becky can totally be the judges.