Korean Zucchini Fritters (Hobak Jeon) is a great banchan(side dish) for your everyday meal. I made this with some Dduk guk and they went together surprisingly well. In the past, I have not cooked many Jeon dishes because I felt that they were really not worth the effort – especially if you are having a party and have many other dishes competing with them. In a way, most Jeon dishes are kind of bland and the taste gets easily lost when there are other bigger tasting dishes such as BBQ meats. But I have recently found that when Jeon plays more of a leading role or when accompanied by more mild tasting foods, you can really appreciate the taste of the underlying ingredient much more – like the subtle sweetness of the Korean zucchini in this Hobak Jeon.
My girl is now back from college for the summer and it was great to have her help me with this dish. She loves all kinds of Jeon (Korean Fritters) – potato, mushroom, buchu (Korean chives)- and I was so happy that I could finally teach her to make them. Even though my kitchen was covered in flour and she had to dig for egg shells from the egg batter because she cracked them too hard
Korean baby zucchini (애호박) is the best kind of zucchini to use for this recipe. It is lighter in color, more tender and sweeter than your average zucchini. If you don’t have a Korean market nearby, you can also use Italian zucchini which is pretty similar. Since zucchini is the main star in this dish, the freshness of the vegetable is very critical – the egg, flour and oil just adds a bit of richness but they can only do so much. So, how do you choose and buy a good, fresh zucchini? Like many similar vegetables, choose one that is firm (there should be no give when you press with your finger). The skin should be smooth and shiny. Also, pick smaller ones and not too fat because the bigger their size, the older they are (in terms of age) and older zucchinis often taste bitter.
Time : 25 min Servings: 3-4 Difficulty: Easy
- 1 Korean baby zucchini (애호박 Ae-hobak)
- 1 large egg
- about 1/3 C of flour (more if you have a big zucchini!)
- sea salt
- vegetable oil/olive oil
- 2 T Kikkoman soy sauce
- 1 T rice vinegar (regular vinegar is ok too)
- roasted sesame seeds
1. Cut zucchini into 1/4 inch slices and lay them in layers out on a plate. Can you see the little condensations around the edge of the zucchini after it is cut? This means the zucchini is still very fresh!
2. Lightly sprinkle the cut zucchini slices with good quality sea salt before you add another layer. Don’t over salt the zucchini since you will be dipping the Jeon pieces in soy sauce.
Leave them for 5-7 minutes so that they become well salted and slightly pickled.
3. In the mean time, put some flour onto a plate or a shallow bowl. Also whisk one egg into another shallow bowl and add a pinch of salt to the egg. Check the zucchini to see if they are ready. The Zucchini slices should bend easily once ready like you see below.
4. Coat the zucchini slices with flour on both sides and set aside.
5. Now you are ready to cook the Hobak Jeon. Heat about 2 T of vegetable or olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Make an assembly line of the flour coated zucchinis -> beaten egg -> pan. Dip each floured zucchini piece into the egg, coat it fully and then put it in the frying pan. Lower the heat to medium once there are enough pieces to fill the pan.
When the edges start to brown (or you look to see how much each piece has cooked by lifting it slightly off the pan), turn them over. When both sides are nicely browned (like the photo below) Jeons are ready to be taken off the heat. Zucchini cooks pretty quickly so it’s hard to under cook it. And even if you do, you won’t get sick from it so don’t worry. If your are starting to burn them, make sure the heat is not too high. Novice cooks tend to burn things because they are not fast enough in turning things over before they are burned.
Relax! And lower the heat further to “low” if you feel overwhelmed at anytime or if you have other stuff cooking at the same time or if you just want to take things slow.. Adjust back to medium when you feel you have caught up with the cooking. Th great thing about this Jeon is that it is pretty tough for you to mess things up so don’t worry! Repeat the process until all of them are cooked. Make sure there is enough oil to go around each zucchini fritter. Be sure to add more oil to the pan before every batch.
6. Make some dipping sauce by mixing soy sauce and vinegar together in a separate sauce dish. Combining 2 T of soy sauce and 1 T of rice vinegar should work. You can sprinkle some roasted sesame seeds or red chili powder or chopped pine nuts as a garnish. Serve the Hobak Jeon and sauce together as banchan in your delicious Korean meal. Enjoy!
This method of cooking: seasoning -> flour -> egg -> frying is a very basic method for making Jeon in Korean cooking. You can substitute zucchini with shitake mushrooms, eggplant, fish fillet (cod or flounder), shrimp, oyster, calf liver … the possibilities are endless. Just make sure the ingredients are fresh and seasoned well with salt. For fish, shrimp or liver, sprinkle some pepper as well.
Jeons taste best when fresh and hot but they also keep well in the fridge for days. Just reheat in the pan on medium heat until the pieces start to sizzle (no additional oil needed). You can also reheat in the microwave but I don’t recommend this since the Jeon will come out soggy.