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What Is Jeon?

By Glyn Sinclair
Updated May 17, 2024
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Jeon are Korean pancakes that can be filled with any number of foods and ingredients. Seafood, beef and poultry are all popular choices. The Korean pancakes differ from their American counterparts. They are soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and very often filled with kimchi. Made from fermented cabbage, cucumber or radish, the kimchi is then chopped up and marinated in a mixture that can sometimes include garlic, ginger and chili.

The meat or seafood and kimchi are blended into a batter of flour and eggs and then fried in a pan coated with oil. Often cooks will omit meat and simply use squash, ground mung beans or lotus root to create a crispy vegetarian pancake. The jeon are then briefly dipped in a sauce made from vinegar, soy sauce and chili for added flavor. One common type of jeon is hwajeon, a sweet pancake filled with rice and flower petals such as chrysanthemums and azaleas. Another popular type of jeon is pajeon, which is made with green onions.

Preparation and cooking time varies for each different jeon. A simple jeon composed of kimchi will obviously be a little quicker than one made with meat. The kimchi pancake is simple to make and can be delivered from pan to table in minutes.

Eggs, flour, kimchi and water are mixed together until the consistency is even and then allowed to sit for a few minutes before cooking. The mixture is poured into a pan and fried on both sides until it is crispy and brown. Small amounts of oil can be added during cooking to prevent the pancake from sticking to the sides and bottom of the pan.

When beef, seafood or poultry pancakes are prepared, the meat is cooked first then cut into thin strips. The strips of meat are added to the kimchi, eggs and flour mix. The batter is then poured into the pan and fried. One of the keys to making jeon with meat is to ensure that the strips of meat are thin enough that they do not protrude out of the batter.

Korean dishes may vary by the province, but side dishes, or banchan, including jeon, are usually a staple at dinner tables across the region. Jeon is served during Korean ceremonies such as Jesa. This ceremony functions as a tribute to the deceased ancestors of the diners. Korean cuisine dates back thousands of years and side dishes such as jeon were also consumed by members of the Korean royal court during the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted from 1392 to 1897. The dish is also a popular finger-food to eat with alcohol.

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