Growing up in a Korean-American household, I ate kimchi with almost every meal. Kimchi with pasta, kimchi with rice, kimchi with...practically everything! We even have a special kimchi refrigerator. You might think that’s going a bit overboard, but this refrigerator is specifically designed to facilitate the fermentation of homemade kimchi, slowing down the process so that it lasts longer without becoming too sour too quickly.
In a standard refrigerator, freshly made kimchi from a store tends to become excessively sour after about a week, but if you have a devoted kimchi refrigerator, it can last for about a month without becoming too sour. Pretty cool, right? It is a bit costly though, so unless you are a kimchi fanatic like me and my family, your normal fridge is perfectly fine—just remember to eat that kimchi!
Say you tried to finish it, but your kimchi turned sour—what do you do? Throw it out? Never. Nothing goes to waste in Korean culture: Sour kimchi is swiftly transformed into other delicious dishes. You can make kimchi fried rice, kimchijigae, or add subtle heat and tang to any dish by sautéing sour kimchi, which mellows any harshness, like in these kimchijeon, or kimchi pancakes.
Kimchijeon are popular everywhere in Korea, and you'll find them at any Korean restaurant. They're typically eaten as an appetizer or a bar snack, and I have had all sorts: some with squid, some paper-thin, and some thick and doughy. But there was this one Korean catering store, Nulboneh, Young’s Foods, that served such perfect kimchijeon (crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and almost chewy) that I haven’t been able to get them out of my head. I have not had another kimchijeon like it since, and it became my mission to re-create the recipe.
I've added my own little twist (milk instead of the typical water, and sweet rice flour for extra chew), so even though this is not your traditional kimchijeon, it's still delicious. The next time you need a snack, and to use up your sour kimchi at the same time, give these a try. Of course, if you have only fresh kimchi and can’t wait to make kimchijeon, you don’t have to use the over-fermented stuff, as the recipe suggests; the end result will simply be a little less potent in flavor.
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 35 minutes
- makes 14 kimchijeon
1 1/4 cups
tightly packed over-fermented napa cabbage kimchi, chopped into ½-inch pieces
scallions (about ¼ cup), both white and green parts, thinly sliced
medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
garlic cloves, minced
(120 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
(20 grams) potato starch
(20 grams) sweet rice flour
(227 grams) whole milk, plus more as needed
Neutral oil (such as vegetable oil), for cooking
- In a medium bowl, use a spoon to mix together the kimchi, kimchi brine, scallions, onion, garlic, and sugar. Let this mixture sit while preparing the remaining ingredients.
- In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, sweet rice flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk and pour it into the flour mixture. Whisk until well combined. Using a spatula, stir in the kimchi mixture. The batter should be looser than a traditional American pancake batter, but not as runny as crepe batter. If the batter is too thick, add one additional tablespoon of milk at a time until it thins out; if too thin, add one additional tablespoon of all-purpose flour gradually until thicker.
- Heat a medium (8- to 10-inch) nonstick skillet over medium and add 1 tablespoon of oil to coat the pan. Scoop ¼ cup of the batter and spread it as thinly and evenly as possible. Make sure that the oil is surrounding the entire kimchijeon (if not, add more oil). Pan-fry until the one side of the pancake is deeply golden brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. When it looks like the batter is starting to look matte and the edges look golden brown and crispy, use a spatula to flip the kimchijeon.
- Lightly press down on the kimchijeon to flatten further. Finish cooking the other side for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and place directly onto a plate.
- Finish cooking the remaining pancakes, adjusting the heat as necessary so that the pancakes do not burn. It is perfectly fine to stack the kimchijeon on top of each other as they finish cooking. You can serve them at room temperature, but they’re best served warm.