What do you do when life gives you too many ugly potatoes? You make potato pancakes!
Back in June, in my Life in Korea – Farming Anyone? post, I wrote that I was planting colored potatoes in my farm. Well..we harvested them in late July. And I have been busy selling them the last 2 months. I have already sold most of it but I had a lot of oddly shaped ugly potatoes left -not fit for sale but totally fine for eating. And then an old college friend came up with the idea of making Gamjajeon(감자전) and selling them at our Ewha University Alumni Baazar event. It was a perfect way to get rid of these excess potatoes, to help raise money for school and also for another alumni friend with cancer.
The morning started out with buckets of rain but it got light just enough for students to come out and buy our yummy crispy potato pancakes – freshly made on the spot. People said that the piping hot pancakes were a perfect thing to have on a rainy, cool day. It was such a success that we were making these non stop with people constantly waiting. It was actually a bit stressful because we couldn’t make them fast enough but we had a blast making them! Even though I have not seen some friends for 20+ years, spending the day together made it as if I had never left.
Now back to gamjajeon -the most delicious (and actually my first) gamjajeon I had was during our family trip to the Seorak Mountains. It was when I was in high school. My dad, mom, brother and I were hiking up the seorak mountain and on our way, we found these little shacks near mountain streams, wherever they was a flat ledge that was big enough to hold them. Perhaps it was the mountain air, or perhaps it was because I was really hungry but I still can’t forget how good the gamjajeon was. Slightly crispy on the outside and full of potato goodness inside.
I used colored potatoes here but you can simply substitute other potatoes. Best potatoes for Korean potato pancake (gamjajeon) are starchy potatoes like regular russet. You can use waxy potatoes but you probably will need to add more flour to keep it together and may not be as crispy.
Servings: 4 Prep Time: 20 min Difficulty: Moderate
Cooking Time: 4-5 min for each pancake (recipe makes about 6 six-inch pancakes)
- 1 lb potatoes (starchy) – I used a mix of red and purple potatoes here
- 1/2 onion
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 T flour (adjust based on how wet your potatoes are)
- vegetable oil for pan frying
- Wash potatoes. Peel if the skin is thick like russet but you can leave the skin on if it’s thin enough.
- Cut potatoes into smaller pieces.
Originally, Koreans used graters to finely grate the potato but chopper is easier and works just as good.
- Cut onions into pieces small enough to fit in the chopper.
- Chop onions and potatoes in blender, like so -
- For the following amount of extra potato liquid,
I added 3 T of flour. After you add the flour, the consistency should be so that the mix does not run down easily from a spatula.
Add more flour if needed. If the gamjajeon falls apart too easily while cooking.
- Heat about 2 T of oil in frying pan on med high heat.
- Using sufficient amount of oil is key to making a good gamjajeon so don’t skimp on oil. Gamjajeon will also stick easily to the pan if there isn’t enough oil.
- Heat oil until it swirls around in the pan like water.
- Ladle the potato mix onto the hot pan. Spread out evenly to about 1/3 in thickness. One full ladle should make one 6 inch pancake.
- Lower heat to medium and fry for 2 minutes or so. Check doneness by lifting up the side slightly to see how brown it is. When it is THIS brown, turn it over!!
- Fry the other side for another 2 minutes until done.
And there you go~ Serve with some yangnyum jang(양념장) for jeon (see my post for yangnyum jang) or chokanjang (초간장) and it is a great snack or banchan for kids and adults alike! It is also a great appetizer for Korean rice wine (막걸리 Maakeoli), so go ahead try it!
- For more zing, add some chopped green chili peppers to the mix or to the yangnyum jang.
- The colored potatoes can be eaten raw so I added them on top (as in the picture) as garnish and it was a fabulous combination because it added a crunchy texture.
- DO NOT turn over the pancake prematurely, before it is fully browned – it’s the number one reason why it will fall apart.
- Loosen the pancake from the pan before you turn over, by loosening it slightly all around and then shaking the pan until the pancake starts sliding around.