Gamja jeon (Korean Potato Pancakes)
Raised in a traditional Korean household, my neighbor Rachel married a Jewish man, and their two girls were raised Jewish. Our families have eaten together often, including many dinners of traditional Korean or Jewish food. This year, I asked Rachel if she had ever made Korean latkes. Last year she sent me a recipe for Korean haroset, so I wondered whether there was such a thing as Korean potato pancakes. It turns out there is—they are known as gamja jeon.
“It was a favorite afternoon snack we ate in the winter,” Rachel remarked as we made her recipe the day after Thanksgiving last month. She has eaten my latkes and made her own traditional ones, but even her children admitted she had never attempted the Korean version of latkes. “I don’t know why I never made these,” she mused as we set out the necessary ingredients, which included not only potatoes, onion and oil, but also spring onions and kimchi.
- Dipping Sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free if necessary)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 large potato (8 ounces), peeled and grated using the smallest holes in a grater
- ¼ cup grated onion
- ¼ cup green onion or scallions, diced
- ¼ cup chopped kimchi (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1–2 tablespoons potato starch
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- To make the dipping sauce, combine soy sauce, vinegar, green onion, jalapeño pepper (if using) and sugar in a small bowl and mix it together until the sugar is melted. Set aside.
- Put the grated potato, onion, green onion and kimchi (if using) in a bowl. Add salt, potato starch and mix it together. Heat up a 9- to 12-inch nonstick or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl the pan around to coat it evenly. Add the potato mixture and spread it thinly on the pan. (For a less traditional version, you can make several small pancakes rather than one large one.)
- Cook a few minutes until the bottom of the pancake turns crispy and a light golden brown. Turn it over with a spatula or flip it. Add the rest of the oil to the edge of the pancake. Shake the pan and tilt it so that oil spreads underneath the pancake. Let it cook until the bottom of the pancake turns golden brown. Keep turning it over and cooking until both sides are crispy and light golden brown, usually about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer it to a plate and serve hot with the sauce.