Crispy Zucchini Pancakes (호박부침개 Hobak buchimgae)

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hobak buchimgae (zucchini pancake)

hobak buchimgae (zucchini pancake)

Buchimgae is such a simple dish and yet the many possible variations makes it a must have in your everyday repertoire of Korean recipes. It is most delicious when it is just directly off the hot pan, freshly cooked, still steaming hot. The simplest version has just one kind of vegetable such as zucchini, chives or green onions. The most elaborate versions have a combination of seafood such as calamari, scallops, clams and shrimp along with zucchini, green onions and onions. Add bits of green chili peppers and you will have a winner that goes well with just about any Korean meal.

The batter has just as many variations. Flour, water and salt is your very basic recipe but Koreans add rice flour, acorn flour and potato flour to give it additional flavor and texture. To make it extra crispy, my trick is to add tempura batter mix in addition to flour.

Once you learn the basics of making this style of pancake, you can very easily create your favorite buchimgae by  mixing and substituting ingredients.

Jeon or Boochimgae is usually served as a side dish in most restaurants but can also be eaten as the main dish and even become a meal all on its own.

My fond memories of eating buchimgae as a kid was when we had them as afternoon snacks at home (or should I say it’s more like sneaking pieces away from the plate as they were cooked for dinner).  Crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the inside, with the bits of zucchini and onions providing slight crunchiness to the texture.

KEY POINTS

  • the batter to solid ingredients ratio is very important. The batter should be just enough to cover the ingredients. Too much batter just makes a very bland, tasteless, doughy buchimgae. This is a very common mistake many people make. It may look like there isn’t enough batter to cover the ingredients but trust me it will work out.
  • use generous amount of oil when frying. don’t be timid about adding more oil as you cook it. most often you will have to add more oil after you turn it over. make sure you fry until it has spots of golden brown color.

Print Recipe

 

Servings: 4                            Prep: 10 min                   Cook: 10 min                      Difficulty: Medium

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large Korean Zucchini (Hobahk) or  2 small Italian zucchini, ¼ in thick sticks (should make approx 2 C)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2-3 Green Chili Peppers (optional)
  • 1/3 C all purpose flour
  • 3 T Korean Tempura Mix (튀김가루 Twigim Garoo – see my yache twigim post for pic)
  • 6 T water
  • 1 tsp sea salt (for flash pickling)
  • vegetable (canola) oil for frying (about 1/2 C)
  • For the sauce:
    • 2 T soy sauce
    • 1 T vinegar
    • dash of red pepper powder (optional)

Directions

1. Cut Zucchini into 1/4 in slices and then into match sticks.Korean Zucchini works best but Italian zucchinis are a good substitute. Regular American zucchinis are not as succulent and sweet. One zucchini should make about 2 C.

zucchini slices

zucchini slices

zucchini sticks

zucchini sticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Sprinkle some sea salt (about 1 tsp per2 C) on the zucchini and toss them. Make  sure the salt is evenly distributed throughout. Leave them salted for 5-7 min until they become limp when held up with a finger – like so..

salted zucchini slices

salted zucchini slices

3. Gently squeeze out excess water from the zucchini sticks. Do not squeeze too much and kill the zucchini!

4. In a large bowl, add the zucchini sticks and then  flour, water and tempura mix. Mix with your hands gently until fully mixed. I usually don’t measure the flour and water. I do it by feel which works better a lot of times. This way, you don’t have to measure the ingredients. Just cut up vegetables, and make enough batter to produce good buchimgae. Making batter for this dish does not have to be an exact science.

The consistency should be like pancake batter or drinkable yogurt. The amount of batter should not be more than the vegetable. The batter should not fully cover the ingredients as you see below.

boochimgae batter

buchimgae batter

5. It’s now time to cook the buchimgae!  On medium high, heat a non-stick frying pan or cast iron pan with about 1 ~ 2 T of oil. When the oil is hot (oil should swirl around like water), ladle the buchimgae onto the pan. When making buchimgae, it’s common to make one large pancake but you can also make several smaller pancakes.

Fry until the edges become brown. 3 min or so on each side but results vary so just pay attention to the edges.

buchimgae edges browning

buchimgae edges browning

Turn it over when the bottom side edges become golden brown as in the picture. Adjust heat to medium if you feel it is browning too quickly.

buchimgae fried until golden brown

buchimgae fried until golden brown

Doesn’t this look amazing? Be sure to add more oil (1T or more) after turning it over. You simply cannot achieve this lovely golden brownness without using a good amount of oil. If your buchimgae is showing spots of black before it browns and/or if it doesn’t have this glow, that means you are not using enough oil. The heat may also be too high if it burns too quickly or too low if it’s not browning at all after being on the heat for 3 min or so.

When both sides have browned, move it to a cutting board and cut the buchimgae into bite size pieces. I like to cut mine into strips and then diagonally, producing diamond shapes.

zucchini buchimgae cut into bite size pieces

zucchini buchimgae cut into bite size pieces

Best served hot with some soy sauce + vinegar sauce mixture.

Variations/Substitutions

  • instead of tempura batter mix, substitute
    • 1/2 C flour + 6~7 T water + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp sugar
  • use any combination of the following ingredients with or without zucchini
    • calamari, shrimp, scallops, clams, imitation crab meat
    • green onions, chinese chives, kkaetnip, Korean green chili peppers, shishito peppers, annaheim peppers, jalapeno peppers
  • substitute or add the following into the batter:
    • sweet rice flour, potato flour
    • you can also add an egg if you want some additional richness, just reduce the amount of water

Storage/Reheating Tips/Serving ideas

  • keep at cool room temp for 6-8 hrs and can be served at room temperature
  • keep in fridge for few days
  • taste best when reheated in the frying pan. usually no additional oil is needed
  • great as afternoon snacks for kids, doshirak(lunchbox) banchan and party dish since you can make this in advance and no reheating is necessary
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