Hooni Kim is the the author of My Korea and chef-owner of Danji and Hanjan in New York City. We asked Kim to tell us about his Cheap Thrill—the fast, affordable, and delicious meal he puts together when he’s too busy or tired to cook anything else. His go-to: a crispy, savory pancake (with a beer on the side).
I get a lot of takeout and am happy to make fried rice with any combination of Chinese, Thai, or Japanese delivery leftovers
But right now scallions are so cheap. In winter scallions cost three or four times as much as they do right now—especially if you buy them from a Korean market. At most American supermarkets, you’ll see a bunch of scallions selling for one dollar, but in spring and early summer at many Korean and other Asian grocers, they sell scallions for six bunches a dollar.
Scallions are so important in Korean cuisine and–especially when they’re in season—one of my favorite ways to use them is to make pajeon (scallion pancakes).
At other Korean restaurants, when you order scallion pancakes, you’ll usually get batter with a few scallions tossed in—it’s not about the scallion itself. When I make scallion pancakes, I like the pancakes to be mostly scallions, with just enough batter to hold them together.
The batter is just as inexpensive: It’s flour, a little baking soda, and some cornstarch [mixed together with seltzer and an egg]. The sauce is soy and vinegar. All these things, you probably already have in your pantry. The recipe from my book is a little more complex, but if you have the basic dry ingredients, you don’t really need to follow my recipe to a T. Don’t have doenjang? Gochugaru? The recipes work without those things.
It’s also a dish where you can be versatile. At Hanjan we would only serve this in the spring when locally grown scallions are really good. As the season wears on, you can replace the scallions with any other [thinly-sliced] vegetable or add seafood or meat. Once you learn the technique for the scallion pancake, you can open up your pantry and use other ingredients your family likes to make any kind of savory pancake.
And once you make the batter with the scallions in it, you can keep it in the fridge for two or three days. Koreans consider it an anju, which means a food that you eat with a beer or makgeolli. But it makes a great lunch or dinner appetizer. I like to have it as a snack after dinner, or when I get the munchies around 10 o’clock.Hooni Kim
Originally Appeared on Epicurious