These jeons serve as a great side dish to any Korean meal with spicy soups or jjigaes. They are also great for lunchboxes because they keep well and taste good even when they are not warm. The only thing is that it takes a bit of effort and time to make it, and that’s why I don’t get to make it as often as I would like. But when you have children or friends to help you, it is an excellent way to get them involved and have a nice conversation as you make them.
“Jeon” is also sometimes called “Jeonyueo” and it refers to the technique of coating an ingredient (be it a meat or vegetable) with flour and egg and then pan frying it in oil. The most wonderful thing about a jeon is that you can make a jeon out of so many different ingredients. Because this method of cooking really helps to keep the ingredients moist and tender, and allows the flavor of the ingredients to speak for themselves since salt and pepper are usually the only seasonings added. I’ve already posted on how to make Hobahk(Zucchini) Jeon and you can use the same method but use other ingredients as listed below:
- shrimp (Saewoo Jeon 새우전)
- oyster (Gul Jeon 굴전)
- cod (Daegoo Jeon 대구전)
- frozen alaska pollock (Dongtae Jeon 동태전)
- liver (Kan Jeon 간전) – calf liver or pig liver
- scallop (Paejoo Jeon 패주전)
- pork belly (Samgyupsal Jeon 삽겹살전)
- eggplant (Gaji Jeon 가지전)
- kimchi (Kimchi Jeon 김치전) – rinse the kimchi in water before coating with flour and egg
- ground beef (Wanja Jeon 완자전) – need to season the ground beef mixture – shown in this post
And then there are other kinds of jeon that involve stuffing the ingredient with the ground beef mixture:
- green chili pepper (Gochu Jeon 고추전) – all varieties of green chili can be used here
- shitake mushroom (Beoseot Jeon 버섯전)
In this post, I will show how you can make the ground beef mixture for the beef patty jeon(wanja jeon) and also use the same mixture inside a perilla leaf wrap jeon (Kkaetnip Jeon).
Beef Wanja Jeon
Servings: 4 Cooking time: 20 min Prep Time: 20 min
Ingredients for beef patty or beef stuffing:
- 1/2 lb ground beef ( you can also use 1/4 lb ground beef + 1/4 lb ground pork)
- 4 oz extra firm tofu (this is about 1/4 of a standard 14 to 15 oz tofu package or 1/2 of the package shown below)
- 1/4 C onion, finely chopped
- 1 T green onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cooking rice wine or mirin
- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 2-3 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp sesame seeds, crushed
For making the beef wanja jeon, you will need the following to cook in the pan:
- 1/4 C flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- dash of salt
- oil for pan frying
1. Prepare the tofu by putting it in a cheese cloth and removing the excess water by wringing the liquid out of the tofu. This also breaks up the tofu into crumbles which will mix evenly with the ground meat.
2. Chop up the onions, green onions and garlic. Garlic shown in picture is frozen garlic made in advance.
3. Get all the beef stuffing ingredients and the seasonings into a bowl. This is all the 13 ingredients listed above!
Mix all the ingredients well with your hands until it looks something like this:
4. Make the patties by first taking some in your hand and rolling it into a ball. This is a good time to have a friend or your family help you make the patties while you get other things ready. It will make things go a lot faster!
Once they are rolled into balls, you can then squash them down between your hands to make into little mini patties as shown below:
5. Prepare a jeon station next to your stove by filling two shallow bowls – one with flour and the other with beaten eggs. Coat the beef patties in flour first. It is good to coat several patties at a time so that you can put the patties in the pan right after another. Otherwise, it just gets too crazy – coating, dunking and turning over – to do all at the same time.
Heat the pan on medium heat with about 2 T of oil. When the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium. Add the flour and egg coated patties into the pan. Cook until the patties are firm or springy when pressed – this means they are fully cooked.
To make Kkaetnip Jeon, make the beef mixture as above and then fill half of the perilla leaf with it and fold it over to make a folded sandwich.
The rest is the same as above. Coat with flour and egg and then pan fry it!
More about jeon…
Jeon was an indispensable part of the traditional Korean party(Janchi 잔치) menu (for birthdays, weddings and New Years) and also a part of food offerings in the ancestral ceremonies (Jesa 제사) performed on New Years, Thanksgiving and the ancestor’s birthday. As a child, I remember helping making jeon all day (sometimes even a day or two in advance) before a big party. Jeon is great for big parties because you can make it well in advance and it keeps well (especially in cool weather) and when the guests arrive, all you need to do is reheat it in a pan with a little oil and serve. I do have this thing about serving jeon as part of a big party menu though – because the jeons are usually pretty mild tasting, they are easily drowned out by other more stronger tasting dishes. I basically feel that the return on the investment of time is really not that great in these cases. I do love making and serving jeon as the main side dish of a simpler dinner menu with perhaps just a spicy soup or jjigae. In my opinion, you get to really appreciate the jeon much more this way which then makes all the extra work worthwhile.
- You can also add finely chopped carrots to the beef mixture which is a great way to get kids to eat more vegetables.
- Jeon is a great doshirak banchan (lunchbox side dish) since it still taste good at room temperature.