Chijimi: Korean Vegetable Pancakes
Wait, what on earth is Chijimi doing in a Japanese food blog!? Everybody knows chijimi are Korean pancakes! True enough, though it turns out, they don’t even call them “chijimi” in (most of) Korea. At least the name is ours.
I would argue that, while Chijimi is admittedly not from Japan, it is Japanese by now. It’s so popular, so common, so often made, it’s impossible for me to think of it as “foreign” – in the same way that nobody having a taco in California feels he’s eating “foreign” food.
Don’t let the word “pancake” throw you, by the way: Chijimi is a savory dish you can eat for lunch or dinner, not at all breakfast or desert food. Chijimi are glossed as “pancakes” simply because they are flat, more or less round and made with batter, even though you only really use the batter to hold the vegetables together.
You may want to print out the characters for when you go shopping, as this vegetable can be confusing to locate in the west. It’s sold under a wide variety of names, including “Chinese leek”, “garlic chives” and “Chinese chives”. Nira is basically a type of grass. It looks like chives, but it has a very distinctive, deep, slightly spicy flavor that makes chijimi taste like chijimi.
In Montreal, you can always find the Nira in Épicerie Coréene et Japonaise on Ste. Catherine. Elsewhere, look for for places where Koreans shop – or go poke around Chinatown. And note that, while chijimi isn’t hard to make, it does take a little planning because you need to make the batter a few hours ahead of time.
Ingredients (For two)
For the batter
- Wheat Flour – 200 g.
- Salt – 1/2 a tea-spoon
- Eggs – two
- Water – 250 cc
- Sesame oil – two table spoons
For the pancakes
- Nira – one big bunch. Choose the kind without flowers.
- Half an onion
- Half a carrot
- A little bit of squid or a few shrimp
- Roasted sesame seeds – one table spoon
For the sauce
- Soy sauce – 3.5 tablespoons
- Vinegar – 1.5 tablespoons
- Sugar – 1 tablespoon
- Sesame oil – 0.5 tablespoon
- Dried hot chillies – to taste
- One lime
- A spring onion, cut thin
- Mix together all the ingredients for the batter, cover with saran wrap and let them sit in the fridge for 3 to 12 hours.
- Make the sauce. Mix together all the ingredients, squeezing in the lime into the sauce and then dunking the lime rinds in as well
- Cut carrots and onions into very thin strips
- Chop the shrimp or squid into small pieces
- Cut Chinese leek into 10 cm. long sections
- Mix the vegetables, the seafood, and the sesame seed into the batter
- Coat a large frying pan with vegetable oil and heat on a medium flame
- Once the frying pan is reasonably hot, pour a thin layer of the batter-covered vegetables onto the pan
- Spread them evenly over the surface, pat it down, and cover
- Cook covered for four minute
- Uncover, say a short prayer, and flip it like you would a regular pancake
- Cover and cook the other side for another four minutes
- Put the finished chijimi in a dish and throw it in the oven on “hold warm” while you make the next chijimi
click to enlarge
Before serving, cut the chijimi into chop-stick friendly squares: 5 cm. by 5 cm.
On the table, set up a little sauce plate for each diner. The way it works is that each person puts a piece of chijimi on his plate, pours a bit of sauce over it, and eats. Delicious!
Chijimi works great as party food. For today’s dinner we had chijimi just by itself.