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If you have ever been to a Korean restaurant, Scallion Pancakes or Seafood Pancakes – a.k.a. Pajeon – are one of the most popular appetizers, next to Jap Chae. Usually, the pancake is divided into equal pieces, like pizza slices, and they are served with a dipping sauce. Koreans have been making these savory pancakes using flours from wheat, beans, lentils, and rice for ages. Savory pancakes may be an interesting concept to some since most American pancakes are sweet and are usually served as breakfast but not Korean pancakes. Oh no.
Korean pancakes are usually reserved for special holidays or for honored guests as appetizers or as a side to alcoholic drinks, like sake or beer. Pancakes are labor intensive to make since so many ingredients go into making the best pancakes. But not only that, using the right balance of ingredients is the key to the crispy outer layer that makes it easy to flip without making a mess. It’s an art, actually.
Making pancakes for a family or a larger crowd takes patience and can be time consuming. But when I make these pancakes, I only make a few at a time so I’m not enslaved to the stove all day but also, these are best when made fresh. You can make the batter and use it in a few days but reheating already cooked pancakes is not recommended. You can try freezing them but it’ll be very hard or almost impossible to make the outer layer crispy again.
Korean Style Paleo Seafood Pancakes
Like I said, perfect Korean pancakes are crispy on the outside, soft and savory in the inside. The savory ingredients are married together to create distinct flavors, depending on the ingredients used. There is the original Pajeon, which is 100% vegetarian with chives and scallions, which makes it pungent but add zucchini and it becomes sweet at the same time. Kimchi Pork Pancake is spicy but it is one of the perfect ways to use up old kimchi. With little slivers of pork belly and spicy kimchi in every bite, it sure is one of the best combination of flavors. And this one, Seafood Pancake fills your mouth with briny ocean taste and it’s always a crowd pleaser. And since these are eggs and dairy-free, these are perfect for those with allergies or sensitivities to them, like my family.
But whatever you use, the batter is VERY important since crispiness depends on it. To make it like a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, you need a perfect balance of two ingredients. Which ones?
Unfortunately, the “secret” is a combination of wheat flour and corn starch, two ingredients we don’t eat anymore and anyone who is following Paleo can’t either. So what does this crispy Korean pancake craving mom do? Use Otto’s Cassava Flour (Amazon Affil) of course!
Otto’s Cassava Flour
I recently discovered Cassava flour when making grain-free Pecan Waffles (I still make this every weekend!) from Down South Paleo’s cookbook (Affl). Cassava is made from Yuca – a root popular in many South American cultures. The flour’s texture is almost like potato flour but it’s grain, nut, and gluten free. And you can use the same ratio as wheat flour for baking. And unlike wheat and rice, it has resistant starch, which means, it increases insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of Diabetes. Also, since it doesn’t breakdown in your body as fast as regular starch, you can regulate your sugar level better. You don’t hit highs and lows like regular starchy foods. And it’s not absorbed in the stomach or small intestines but “fermented” by good bacteria in the large intestine, producing short chain fatty acids. So I was really glad to discover a wheat flour substitute!
I’ll be honest, it took a few tries to achieve that crispy texture on the outside. I found out that the trick is cooking when the oil is VERY HOT and eating it while it’s still hot. If you stack the pancakes, they will create steam from the heat and they will get soggy and gooey. I got really excited when I finally came up with the right recipe and kept making them and stacking them to serve to my family all at once. I hate it when they come by to take them piece by piece so I made them wait. Well, by the time I served them, the pancakes were all soggy and gooey. I had to make another one just to prove that they were crunchy. So the moral of the story is, eat ’em while they are hot!
Now onto the pancake recipe.
Note: I was exceptionally ambitious and took pictures during the process so you can see how each step looks. If this type of recipes are good in your opinion, let me know. I’ll do more step by step recipes like this in the future, time and natural light permitting.
How to Make Korean Style Paleo Seafood Pancakes
Before you skip down to the recipe, read the directions in between the images because those tips will help you achieve the best results.
Julienne zucchini, onions, and scallions in thin strips or strings. Thinner the better. Be careful and don’t cut your fingers. If you want to use a Mandoline (Amazon Affl), be my guest. I’m old school and I did it by hand.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt to season and to soften the veggies.
Heat stainless steel pan or cast iron pan until it’s very hot. How can you tell if it’s hot enough? Sprinkle a few drops of water and see if it splatters and sizzles. If it does, it’s hot enough. Add high smoke point oil like avocado oil (Amazon Affil), enough to cover the whole pan. By the way, using this method guarantees your pan to be non-stick. You can make anything, even sunny side up eggs! Do not use a non-stick pan for the obvious reasons but the other reason is because non-stick pans do not brown the batter to make it crispy.
Back to the pancake. Wait until the oil smokes a little and then, gently pour one cup of the batter, spreading it out evenly with the back of the ladle or spoon, leaving some room on the edges. Be careful. Oil will splatter. I usually use a splatter guard or loosely cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil while cooking. Lower the heat to Medium heat. Cook for about five minutes and lift the edge to see if the bottom is browned and firm. If not, let it cook some more. One tip: when you see holes on the top of the batter and translucent edges, then, it’s starting to get ready to be flipped. When it’s ready to be flipped, pancake should be firm and easier to handle. Slide the spatula underneath and lift the edge, add more oil to the pan, and flip in one suave move.
Look how beautiful it is!! Now cook this side for about 3 minutes while adjusting the heat or lifting the pan if it starts to burn. You may need to add more oil around the edges depending on how much oil you used before. Press down gently to make sure the entire surface touches the pan. After 3 minutes, again, slide a metal spatula underneath, and check if it’s browned and firm.
What do you think? Wait. Something is missing. Oh, that’s right. The dipping sauce. You don’t really “need” the dipping sauce, especially if you are avoiding soy, but if you want to, you can make the dipping sauce. The pancakes are already seasoned nicely so you won’t miss out if you don’t use it.
Hope you enjoyed making Korean Style Paleo Seafood Pancakes. If you have egg allergies, this is a special treat since the ingredients only has flour and water. My kids will eat these as a meal! If you are allergic to seafood, try using julienned zucchini, Chinese chives, kimchi pieces, and lots of scallions. I love any of these combinations!
- ½ C Tamari* (Gluten Free Soy Sauce or if you're avoiding soy, use liquid amino*)
- ¼ Cold water
- 1 tsp Red chilli pepper
- 1 tsp Sesame Seeds
- 1 tbsp finely chopped scallions
- 1 tbsp Rice Vinegar*
- 1 Cup Cassava flour*
- 1 Cup + 2 Tbsp cold water (and any water from the seafood mixture)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 Cup Zucchini - julienned
- 1 Cup Scallions - julienned
- 1 Cup Onion - julienned
- 1 Cup Wild Shrimp - deveined and chopped
- 1 Cup Skinned baby squid, sliced in smallish pieces Avocado Oil*, as needed
- Sour Kimchi, sliced
- Yellow Summer Squash
- Pork Belly
- Make the dipping sauce ahead so the flavors are infused together.
- Combine all the ingredients and serve with the pancakes.
- You can save the leftover in an air tight jar for future use. Or you can double the recipe and keep it in a air tight jar for future.
- Wash and prep all the vegetables as per the ingredients section
- Add sea salt to the vegetables and mix.
- Slice the baby squid in about ¼ thickness and chop the tentacles in small pieces.
- Clean and devein shrimp and chop in small pieces, about ½ inches chunks.
- In a medium size bowl, mix all the ingredients together until flour is wet.
- Heat pan on high heat until sizzling hot. When a water droplet sizzles on the pan, it's hot enough.
- Add enough avocado oil to the pan to cover the whole surface.
- When the pan smokes a little, pour about 1 cup of the batter and spread on the pan, leaving some space around the edges.
- Lower the heat to Medium and cook for about 5 minutes or until the underside is browned. You'll see little bubbles forming on the top and the edges get translucent when the bottom is almost ready. But still check by sliding the spatula underneath.
- When it's ready to be flipped, using a sturdy spatula, lift the edges, add some more oil, and flip the pancake.
- Cook for 3 minutes on this side or until the bottom is browned and firm.
- Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.