Kimchi pancakes

In cold weather, I crave heavy foods. Fried, fattening, salty, savory foods (the best of the worst kind of foods). Besides trying to offset these by eating them as part of a meal balanced by steamed greens and other digestive aids, stuffing them with sour fermented veggies goes far in minimizing “fried food friends belly bloat bonanza.” Thus, I present to you my streamlined recipe for kimchi pancakes!

3 small kimchi pancakes fried to golden brown perfection on a small blue plate.
See what crispy fried, sour little beauties these are? Nom.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of rice flour (or whatever you have on hand and feel like using)
  • 1 cup kimchi, chopped smallish and mostly trained of liquid – I use kitchen shears to avoid dirtying a board
  • 1 egg (optional for vegans, but I find it helps bind the batter together)
  • roughly 1/2 cup of kimchi liquid (for maximum sour) or water, or any combination thereof
  • optional, but super tasty: chopped scallions
  • so optional I always forget: a diced garlic clove or two
  • oil for frying
  • salt to finish

Recipe:

Mix flour, kimchi, egg, optional acrids (scallion, garlic) and most of the kimchi liquid in a bowl. Add remaining liquid slowly, until a thick batter forms (you may need to add a little water).

Heat a pan on medium heat. Add a generous amount of oil – ideally an oil with a high-smoke point, like grapeseed, sunflower, or even canola (see forthcoming post about oils for more info on why). Seriously, don’t be stingy with the oil, otherwise your pancake will stick/break/not be tasty. Pan is ready when a drop of water sizzles/dances immediately upon contact.

Spoon batter onto pan, either in easily flippable fritters, or go for broke with one big ol’ round pancake (you brave chef you). The batter will be lumpy and thick, so smooth that out with the back of your spoon. Let cook for 3-5 minutes – like a normal pancake, the edges will crisp/brown before the middle, and if your batter was on the thin side you can use the formation/popping cycle of air bubbles to tell when the first side is cooked.

Flip it real gentle like. If your batter consistency is off, this is where it rips. Seriously, folks, a warning: the first time you try to make these for skeptical family members, talking up how tasty they are and how easy it is to make them I swear, even the most tested recipe will fail under the weight of their collective doubts and “ew, kimchi?” anxieties, and these pancakes will rip in twenty places until you’re serving several piles of what look like dog throw-up and you swear you’ll never bother with non-stick cookware again. Ahem. Yes, I speak from great experience.

Cook second side to desired crisp brownness. Remove from pan and pat off excess oil with a paper towel, before lightly sprinkling with salt and serving. Enjoy!

Bowl of deanjang (korean soybean stew) with lots of veggies, and plate of kimchi pancakes.

Eat right away, sneaking them away from the watchful eye of the chef, or as part of a well-balanced meal: here shown with a bowl of deanjang (Korean soybean stew).

Medicinal properties

Fried foods are not healthy, per se. They’re considered very damp in nature, and that dampness bogs down digestion (which is like a stoked fire, or a boiling pot of soup – emphasis on the boiling, not the watery pot).

Kimchi, however, is quite sour. While I can’t say how much of its probiotic goodness survives cooking (half? a quarter? none? someone not me should research this!), I can say that its sour taste cuts through that dampness, and its spiciness reduces the tendency of damp/fried foods to cool and congeal.

These properties are further enhanced by the addition of scallions, which are acrid, subtly pungent, and lifting, balancing the directional tendency of fried foods to cling to the center. Basically, if you have weak digestion but are craving something unhealthy, this is the healthiest unhealthy dish you can make.