Jeon: a simple dish to make any occasion special
Clockwise from top-left:`Jeonyueo,'are made with white fish; `donjeonya,'are meat and tofu patties; `Dongnae pajeon,' is a local take on Korean comfort food; and `sanjeok,' combinations include crab sticks and ham.
As the oppressive humidity makes way for cool, gentle breezes, Koreans are reminded that Chuseok is just around the corner. The holiday can be traced back to Korea's agrarian past, when communities celebrated a boutiful harvest. Traditionally, it was known as "Hangawi," which refers to the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, the date of the full Harvest Moon based on the lunar calendar. The holiday usually falls between September and November of the Gregorian Calendar used today.
Similar to Thanksgiving holidays in the West, people celebrate Chuseok with family gathered around a table full of carefully prepared foods. People from all over the country spend hours travelling to their hometowns, seeking the comfort of loved ones and home cooking. Among the many dishes prepared for a Chuseok celebration, "jeon" are most closely associated with the holiday.
■ A staple of the Korean holiday table
Actually, jeon are a must-have food for any celebration, not just Chuseok. Also called "zzizim" in Busan and the surrounding area, jeon can be any protein, vegetable, or combination thereof, coated in a flour batter and fried.
"Jeonyueo" are jeon made with any white fish, typically pieces of cod or brown croaker. In some areas, it is common to use shark meat. In any case, pieces of fish are seasoned, dusted with flour and dipped into beaten eggs before being pan-fried. The cooking method results in a tasty piece of fish that is crispy on the outside while juicy and tender on the inside.
12-15 filets of cod or other white fish (fresh or frozen), 200g of flour or Korean pancake mix (부침가루), 2-3 eggs beaten, salt and black pepper, oil for frying.
1. Defrost the fish if necessary. Put the fish filets into a large bowl and gently season with salt and pepper.
2. Cover the fish with the flour and mix it until each piece of fish is lightly coated.
3. Heat a pan over medium and coat the bottom of the pan with oil.
4. When the pan is ready, take a piece of fish, shake off any excess flour, and dip it into the beaten eggs. The fish should be fully coated with the egg mixture. Repeat as necessary.
5. Carefully lay the fish into the pan, but don't overcrowd it. Fry each piece until both sides are golden brown.
6. Serve and enjoy!
Other popular jeon include"donjeonya,"small patties made of ground meat mixed with finely chopped green onions and tofu; and "sanjeok," thinly sliced protein and vegetables skewered on small, wooden sticks.
■ Perfect for sharing
"Pajeon" are savory crowd-pleasers, perfect for any Korean meal. Often called a "Korean Pancake," pajeon refers to any jeon made with a flour batter that uses green onions as a prominent ingredient. Other ingredients can be mixed in, like shredded vegetables or a mix of seafood. Crisp at the edges, soft in the center, and filled with delicious ingredients, these are irresistible and comforting pancakes, best enjoyed on a rainy day.
"Dongnae pajeon" is a local take on the dish, with slightly different ingredients, such as rice flour, in the batter. Unlike other pajeon, each ingredient is layered in the pan before being covered with the batter. The resulting pancake has a thin and crispy exterior with a soft and gooey center. Pair it with a glass of "makgeolli," or rice wine.
※ Seafood Dongnae Pajeon Recipe
2 bunches of green onion, 85g of flour, 65g of rice flour, 315ml of ice cold water, 2 eggs, 6 pieces of shelled and deveined shrimp, 1 handful of clam meat, salt and black pepper, oil for frying.
1. Remove the roots of the green onions and thoroughly clean each stalk with water.
2. Mix the seafood in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, make the batter by thoroughly combining one egg, both flours and water.
4. Heat a large fry pan over medium heat and add enough cooking oil to coat.
5. Now it's time to layer. Take half of the onions, dip them into the batter and spread them into a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Spread the seafood mixture on top. Use the remaining onions to cover the seafood. Then, ladle more batter on top until everything is thinly coated.
6. Once the bottom is nicely browned, flip the whole pancake over and cover with a lid.
7. Once browned, flip it over again. Crack the remaining egg on top of the pancake and spread it into a thin layer. Cover the pan with a lid and continue cooking until the egg is cooked through.
8. Serve and enjoy!