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If you’re like me, you may be reaching the fatigue stage of quarantine cooking. Prepping for, making, and cleaning up after two to three meals a day for your family is undoubtedly work, and I welcome efficiencies at every turn. Whether that’s through batch-cooking ahead on Sundays or relying on quick-to-assemble meals during the week, I’m employing a bevy of helpful ingredients and shortcuts to get me through the grind.
I’m here to share one of those easy, tasty, pantry-friendly dishes: Korean-style potato pancakes known as gamja jeon. Koreans love to pan-fry a lot of things, often relying on a flour batter, but this savory potato pancake does not. With just grated (or in this case, blended) potatoes, onions, and the remnant potato starch left after draining the mixture, you have a simple snack, side dish, or canvas for a meal.
Traditionally, Koreans eat pan-fried jeon on rainy days (the sizzling sound of the oil being an onomatopoetic likeness for the rain) with a generous pour of makgeolli, a milky, lightly effervescent rice wine that is low in alcohol and a super accompaniment to pan-fried food (my current favorite makgeolli is the canned version made by Makku, available on Craft Beer Kings, right here in the States).
During a time when flour can still be hard to find, lean on the sturdy potato and give gamja jeon a try. I whiz it all up in my Vitamix, but you can grate it on a box grater just as easily. They’re great with add-ins too; chopped chili or scallions are a favorite. You can enjoy them on their own or with a dipping sauce (recipe below). Or you can top it with a fried egg or some dressed salad greens for a nice little meal. If you’re a fan of hash browns, latkes, or rösti, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy Korean-style gamja jeon, too.
Watch the step-by-step tutorial for gamja jeon below and be sure to drop a note if you’re able to make it for yourself.
Korean Potato Pancake (Gamja Jeon)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 1 to 2
- 2 to 3 starchy potatoes, like Russet or Yukon Gold, peeled and roughly cut in quarters
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, cut in quarters
- Approximately 1/2 cup water, enough to cover the blades
- Salt, to taste
- Neutral cooking oil
- Add the potato and onion pieces, along with water, to a high-powered blender. Pulse until blended, about 12 to 15 times.
- Strain the mixture in a sieve placed over a bowl for about 10 to 15 minutes. Season with a couple of pinches of salt; this will help both season and draw out excess moisture. Give the mixture a good press into sieve before pouring off the liquid carefully, leaving behind the white potato starch that remains at the bottom of the bowl. Add in the potato onion mixture to the potato starch, season with salt, and mix well.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot enough, lower the heat to medium and add enough neutral oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Carefully scoop out mixture to your desired size. This makes about 2 medium-sized pancakes or 4 to 6 smaller ones.
- Once the underside turns golden brown, flip and continue frying. Add more oil if needed.
- Drain potato pancakes on a cooling rack over a tray (optional step). Season with a bit more salt while they’re hot. When ready to eat, transfer to a plate and serve with dipping sauce, optional.
Dipping Sauce (optional)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon rice, apple cider, or plain vinegar
- 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- Roasted sesame seeds
- In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Adjust to your taste. Use as a dipping sauce for pan-fried potato pancakes, dumplings, and more.