Sometimes it's just a word or two that makes all the difference, you know? Like a few years ago when were in Honolulu, we were at a happy hour, and were served a Korean snack that the folks there called meat jun.
Now, we have had many a Korean scallion pancake – aka pajeon– but never had heard of meat jun. We declared the spelling incorrect and insisted that anything with jeon (prounounced like fun with a j, btw) in the title was a pancake and not the battered and fried strips of meat we had been served in Hawaii. To prove our point, we even texted our Korean-American friends and searched our favorite Korean cookbooks and LA-based restaurants’s menus all to find not one mention of meat jun. Aha!, we proclaimed. We found yet another dish that our Hawaiian friends claimed was authentic when it was really fusion.
That was all fine and dandy until last month we were at a friend’s Korean house and her mother said, “Here, try the jeon!” We looked down to see yukjeon— a more authentic, meat take on jeon. Not quite what we had in Hawaii but close enough to make us totally embarassaed. We screamed a silent, “argh!” but had to admit it was delicious — as were the veggie jeon, the fish jeon, and the array of other Korean foods on display.
But life is about comprimises, no? So, in that vein we came up with our own jeon. It combines our favorite jeons – kimchi, meat, and scallion – with no intention of being traditional. But you know what? It’s so much better than we ever imagined. We’ve be serving it at a few happy hours on mainland and even out in Hawaii where our local friends have coined it with the pidgin name of “Our Kine Jeon.”
or gluten-free tamari, divided
peeled and cut into 3 pieces
or other lean pork cut (not ground), frozen 15 minutes before slicing
or gluten free flour
trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
For the marinade: Combine 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce or tamari, 2 tablespoons of the water, the honey, the lemon juice), the ginger, and the garlic cloves in a large shallow nonreactive bowl or dish and stir until well combined. Remove meat from the freezer, trim off any excess fat, and trim, across the grain, into paper thin slices. Add meat to marinade and marinate covered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
For the batter: When meat is ready, whisk the all-purpose flour (or gluten free flour), the rice flour, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Add eggs and water to flour and mix until well combined and batter resembles pancake batter (a few lumps may remain). Remove meat from marinade and roughly chop into 1-inch pieces then to batter along with all the kimchi and half the green onions and stir to coat thoroughly.
Most types of jeon are usually gummy in the middle but crisp on the edges so that’s how I’ve made it here. The more oil you use to cook the pancake, the crispier it will get but don’t use so much that it gets greasy.
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons oil to a large nonstick frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. Make sure the oil is hot before you start cooking and note that the more oil you use the crispier the pancake will get on the edges. Spoon one-third (about 1 1/2 cups) of the batter (making sure to get the meat and other goodies) into the pan and cook until underside is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Using a large spatula, carefully flip the pancake on the plate and cook until underside is golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Slide pancake onto a cutting board and rest. Repeat with remaining oil and batter to make two more pancakes.
For the dipping sauce: Combine the remaining soy sauce, water, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, chile powder, and remaining scallions in a serving bowl and whisk to combine. Slice pancake into 6 or 8 wedges and serve with dipping sauce.
Korean chile powder can be found in the ethnic aisle of some grocery stores or at a Korean or Asian market. It comes in a variety of heat levels so ask around to learn about what kind you’re buying. If you can’t find it, use your favorite chile garlic paste instead.
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