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Gluten-Free Korean-Style Shrimp Pancakes

Korean Style Shrimp Pancake

Crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside, these savory pancakes are seriously addictive! Served as breakfast, sides (banchan), appetizers or street snacks, Korean pancakes, which go by the moniker Jeon, are vegetable-centric, incorporating cabbage, mushrooms, bell pepper, bean sprouts, mung beans, chives, scallions, kimchi, coarse Korean red chili pepper powder or paste (Gochujang) and, seafood, squid rings, fish and pork belly as the protein add-on. Some are mixed “batters,” while others showcase one main ingredient, such as chives or kimchi, to allow that flavor to take center stage. This dish is a texture and flavor crave—a bit denser compared to fluffy, bland Japanese savory pancakes, with a slight chili kick.

In this recipe, green cabbage, scallions and mushrooms form the foundation of the pancake, with shrimp as the protein. (Bay scallops and squid rings are good substitutes in this recipe too). Don't be thrown off by the pancake’s batter— it differs from our concept of batter in that it barely covers the ingredients; the egg, flour and water mixture loosely binds the main ingredients together, rather than having food items swimming in a wet batter. A bit grainy and dry after initially mixing all the ingredients together, it's crucial to allow the raw pancake to “sit” for at least 10 minutes before adding it to a hot, oiled nonstick pan. As it cooks, moisture will be released from the cabbage and bean sprouts, which creates its iconic soft yet slightly chewy texture. Another caveat is to thinly slice the cabbage and mushrooms (1/4-inch or less), or the texture will be off. I use a mandolin (Japanese Benriner) for this step, but a sharp knife works too. Although quick to come together, make sure all your ingredients are prepped and ready to go before you start the cooking process. If you are new to flipping large pancakes, make smaller shrimp cakes—4 in a 12-inch nonstick skillet will be easier to handle than one large pancake in a 9-inch skillet, that might end up on the kitchen floor if your aim is off!

Use a neutral oil to sauté the pancakes— avocado or canola oil. (Peanut or sesame seed oil will overpower the delicate taste of this pancake and are not recommended in this dish.) I like to serve the pancakes drizzled with a creamy Asian street food sauce, mayo mixed with garlic powder and Worcestershire, and thinly-sliced green onion. Sesame seeds, shaved bonito flakes, sliced pickled ginger, thin strips of Korean-style toasted nori (seaweed) also make great garnishes served on the side.

Gluten-Free Korean-Style Shrimp Pancakes
Serves: 2

Ingredients for Shrimp Pancakes

1/4 cup organic white rice flour
1/4 cup organic brown rice flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of white pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
4-6 tablespoons filtered water, room temperature

Vegetables & Shrimp
1 cup thinly shredded green cabbage, about a 1/8-inch-thick
2 shiitake mushrooms, caps removed and sliced 1/4-inch-thick
1/4 cup beech mushrooms, roots removed and loosely packed
1/4 cup, 1/4-inch matchstick cut red bell pepper
1/4 cup bean sprouts, squeezed in hands to lightly crush
2 green onions, green part only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup medium shrimp (26-30), shell, tail and vein removed, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 3-4 pieces per shrimp)
3 tablespoons neutral oil (I recommend avocado oil or canola)

In a large bowl, add white rice flour, brown rice flour, cornstarch, garlic powder and salt, then mix with a fork several times to combine. Drizzle oil over the top and oil and stir several times to combine—it will be lumpy.

In a small bowl, whisk water and egg lightly with a fork to combine, then pour over flour mixture and stir with a fork gently to combine. The batter will be thick and grainy at this stage.

Add shredded cabbage, mushrooms, bean sprouts, red bell pepper and shrimp to the flour mixture, and mix gently to combine.

Mixed vegetables

Allow batter to sit for at least 10 minutes before cooking.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to a 9-inch, non-stick pan, and heat on medium-high heat till hot but not smoking. Add batter to the pan, and gently even out with a silicone spatula—do not flatten or press down on the pancake. Sprinkle coarse Korean red pepper powder over the pancake, and lower heat to medium, and allow to cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Using a spatula, check to see if the underside of the pancake is golden brown and crispy—when ready, flip over to the other side.

frying shrimp pancake

Flip pancake to uncooked side by either tossing in the air or using 2 silicone spatulas to turn it, then add an additional tablespoon of oil. Lightly tilt pan to allow oil to gravitate to other side of pan to lightly film it. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Slide shrimp pancake from frying pan to a serving plate, and drizzle sauce over pancake with a large spoon. Sprinkle thinly-sliced green onions and sesame seeds over the top and serve immediately with small dishes of garnishes: dried Korean red pepper, street sauces, thin strips of seasoned Korean-style nori, thinly-sliced green onion tops and sesame seeds are nice.

Fried Shrimp Pancake

Street Food Sauce
1 tablespoon mayo
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together till incorporated.

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