Not Okonomiyaki: buchujeon or pajeon

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Okonomiyaki, the Japanese pizza—a pancake served “as you like it” with your favorite toppings—is delicious; I’m inspired to try as many kinds as I can. Koreans enjoy a similar pancake dish called jeon; the most basic version is made with only scallions and is called pajeon, or p’ajon, pajon, pa jun, pageon, or (oddly) buchimgae or buchujeon. The last two may refer to pancakes which use garlic chives (or Chinese chives) rather than green onions; I don’t know. buchimgalu=packaged mix?

At the Korean store on the corner, I often see large bunches of slender greens which have flatter leaves than chives. And I have them growing in my garden. They produce balls of small pretty white flowers at the end of summer which become neat clusters of seed pods. The plants self sow easily, though they are not invasive. I see birds eating the ground-pepper sized black seeds in the winter. The chives are young and tender now, they’ll have time to recover to produce seeds by summer’s end, and so this is a great time to try pajeon.

Usually I do a lot of research before preparing a recipe found online, but this time I was too eager to start. The pancakes tasted good, but there was no way all of the mixture was going to fit into my 12-inch skillet! That should have been clue #1. The first one did not hold together. I tried to save the other by adding an egg to the remaining batter, and another egg on top, as the pancake cooked. J. liked it, but it was of course very egg-y and not at all what I had in mind.

Belated research reveals that many things can be added to these pancakes: prawns, scallops, oysters, clams, mussels, chicken, corn, bits of seaweed, tofu, mushroom slices (especially oyster mushrooms), kimchi, asparagus slices, bell peppers or shredded carrots for color, or other cooked or shredded vegetables that you have on hand. Some people put an over-easy egg on top.

This is the recipe I tried:
Haemul Pajeon
Vegetable Pancake with Garlic Chives (buchujeon)
4 appetizers, light meal for 2

  • ½ cup of flour
  • ⅔ cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • vegetables (4 cups total):
    ½ cup green onions, chopped
    3 cups of garlic chives, chopped
    ½ cup shredded zucchini
Recipe Notes:
This looks like more sensible amounts for the batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 egg,1 ¾ cups water
Ice cold sparkling water is often suggested. Cornstarch is sometimes potato starch or rice flour.
  • ⅔ cup of chopped scallop and shrimp
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • vegetable oil
and you can see that I was a tad generous with the amount of seafood…

Combine flour, salt, and water. Add the vegetables and stir well.
Heat oil in a large pan, pour the batter in (thin layer), top with seafood. Press the seafood down into the batter. Lower heat to medium. When the pancake is 80% cooked pour the beaten egg into the center. Flip pancake. Finish cooking, slice and serve with dipping sauce.
Dipping sauce:

  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ Tablespoon rice vinegar
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9 thoughts on “Not Okonomiyaki: buchujeon or pajeon

  1. Beautiful photo Tess! Alliums should be grown for their flowers alone don’t you think. We are growing elephant or Russian garlic and sometimes instead of lifting them all I leave some to flower and seed and eventually keel over.

    A pancake by any other name – and I want it. I haven’t tried pajeon but I love the laminated scallion pancakes from our local Chinese crepe stall. I wander past after marketing and inhale the smell of oniony things and sesame oil. Quite often after a few passes I give in and buy a few.

    Your green mixture looks so fresh what a pity the recipe was sketchy – will try your annotated version instead. Hmmmm wonder what pigeon pajeon would be like…just kidding although after watching Masterchef contestants bone out quails last night and having studied your chicken wing post I’m almost ready to try out my knife skills on some small bird. No songbirds though – nothing Shakespearean or biblical.

    Your aside on the birds taste for allium seeds reminds me that I have read somewhere that birds often seek out the seeds of antibiotic herbs to purge themselves of parasites. Wonder if this is equivalent to a garlic flea collar for a cat or dog?

    • I’m really glad I took that picture last fall: it was the only one I took of the garlic chive flowers; they are really lovely flowers!

      Does your elephant garlic (never heard of it called “Russian”) develop scapes? We found them last year at our Farmers’ Market and I cooked them with orzo.

      I really think my notes will make a nice pancake: as much cooking as I’ve done, it should have been obvious that I had too much veg for the amount of batter. I think I cut the chives too finely and that I packed them into the measuring cup… I think the rice flour (or the starches) will give the pancakes a chewy-er texture?? Let me know if you try it? I’ll try again too: I love a savory pancake!

      I don’t know about boning out quails! I think I’ve seen whole quails (frozen) at the same grocery as the kangaroo meat came from, and some people hunt mourning doves but so small! (and I suspect the folk who hunt the doves don’t eat them) My brothers used to bring home partridge during the hunting season, but my mom never boned them!

      I had to laugh about the Biblical/Shakespearean references: don’t you think that was a form of “bling” in those days? Ostentacious to say the least. I did have a lovely pie-bird once, though, in the shape of a blackbird.

      Birds eating buck-thorn and poison ivy (and likely other less than desirable plants) seeds certainly “do their business” to spread the noxious plants widely.

      I hadn’t heard of garlic flea collars either: there is some other plant-based herbal bath (or even collars) to repel fleas (pyrethrum?) . But I’ve gone chemical/drug with kits.
      <3
      t

  2. On bling – do you mean the bird inside a bird, inside a bird, inside a bird pie? Or there was four and twenty singing blackbirds. But I’m with you I would much prefer a bird shaped pie – what a lovely idea. I think I was more remembering the way the French knock off some of their very small birds for dainty roasted dishes. I could never eat anything that sang. I love being sung to way too much.

    Our elephant garlic forms four or five really large cloves and tastes a little milder than the regular purple garlics. Perhaps you know it by a different name. It doesn’t form scapes as far as I have observed – but gee having seen yours now I wish it did – natural ikebana! And they taste good? Even better – edible art.

    Tess sorry to read in your earlier post that you had been unwell – sending you virtual weak, honeyed herb tea and rusks cut into fanciful autumn shapes. If only the cats could put the tea kettle on – still I hope they kept you company while you were mending.

    Now to try your recipe. I love shredded zucchini in fritters and pancakes but have learnt to ring them out in a tea towel first – in fact I get my Mark to help me twist with him at one side of the sink and me at the other – a real operation but worth it to stop the sog. My eyes lit too on the mention of kim chi! Yum! Off to rattle the pots and pans and report back later…
    <3 + <3 = from Carolyn Xx

    • Bling is usually showy jewelry worn by rappers and movie stars, an excess of consumption to display wealth. Eating tiny birds seems to display a similar lack of moderation: showing they had so many servants that the table could be filled with all sorts of outrageously labor intensive foods. The tur-duc-en bird inside bird or pies filled with blackbirds. Perhaps I was stretching the meaning of “bling.”

      My pie bird was a hollow ceramic blackbird, which was meant to be placed in the center of a pie to vent steam.

      I’ve had elephant garlic, nice and mild, but have not heard it called Russian. Interesting. Apparently garlic growers have been cutting off and throwing the scapes away to promote the formation of bigger heads. Then someone came up with the idea of marketing them.

      My cats are nice and patient when one is lying in bed wishing the tummy would stop tossing and turning—they’ll keep company and purr even if you wake them up.

      Speaking of kimchi, another Korean grocery opened some blocks in the other direction from the one I’ve been going to. They have all kinds of kimchi, not just made with cabbage! And their vegetables / mushrooms are really fresh. I hope the two stores can compete without driving each other out of business.

  3. Just reporting back on your recipe notes Tess – it worked a treat – I used garlic chives, zucchini and scallion greens. They were delicious. Thank-you for nutting the whole process out!
    Carolyn Xx

    • J. took me out to a nice Korean restaurant, and we ordered haemul pajeon. Just as I should have known: not such an overwhelming amount of chives! The seafood—mostly squid—was mixed into the batter and far less excessive than I was used it as a topping.

      It was wonderful so I’ll definitely have to try this again. Might even dare to use squid! It occurs to me that squid and kangaroo have something in common: bless them with too much heat and they will become criminally tough!

      very happy to hear my speculations were good…

      thank you XOXO

      t

      3A07

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  6. It think it’s important to let the batter rest for a while before adding your ingredients and cooking. A lot of recipes say at least three hours, but I usually don’t plan well enough in advance and wait about half an hour. Even 15 minutes will get the gluten going and help it stay together.

    This kind of pancake is also great with bean sprouts, but the version I fell in love with in Seoul was kimchi.

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