I’ve never been a sweet pancake person. I always want just a few bites, and thus feel blessed by the “pancakes for the table” movement. Savory pancakes, however, are a different story. I can’t get enough of flaky cong you bing; mushroom-filled crepes; egg-topped Dutch babies; Kewpie mayo-drizzled okonomiyaki; and crispy jeon (my appreciation extends to pancake-adjacent foods, like fritters, pakora, and ukoy).
A savory pancake is the ideal vessel for random vegetables, and so I’m especially drawn to this way of eating in the summer, when I let myself go wild at the farmers market. As exciting as the tote bag of sweet corn, shelling peas, garlic scapes, and wax beans seems on Sunday, there are always stragglers at the end of the week. The savory pancake will take any and all of these random vegetables. Ideally, it requires just one pan, one bowl, and some light chopping, making it as well-suited for a quick weekday lunch as it is a Saturday night snack.
Simplifying my life further, and making me even more pro-pancake, is premade Korean pancake mix. I’m not terribly brand loyal. The one I have now is from Beksul, ordered via Umamicart, but I also like the Ottogi mix that my grocery store stocks. I’ve made jeon from scratch — usually following Maangchi’s recipes for pajeon, using ramps or scallions; yachaejeon, using leeks, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and sweet potatoes; and kimchijeon — and though the process isn’t very involved, the mix still has its upsides.
For one thing, there’s the fact that I don’t have to think about anything at all, apart from what vegetables I have. Most of the time, I take the idea of being an “ingredients household” too seriously, so the toe-dip into convenience is refreshing, especially in the more brain-melting parts of summer.
While Maangchi calls for just equal parts flour and water plus seasonings in her recipes, the mixes tend to include other starches like tapioca, corn, or potato and sometimes rice flour, along with baking powder for leavening. Those additions yield a lighter, crispier texture. I could still make that myself, but I appreciate the opportunity to not dirty my measuring spoons. (To really keep dishes low, I memorize what the texture of the mix should look like after following the instructions once, and then eyeball it whenever I want to make a pancake; using a kitchen scale and following the weight measurements works too.)
Aside from these additions, the mixes are also seasoned well, usually with garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper. They yield pancakes that taste even better with a dipping sauce (soy sauce with a little vinegar is my go-to) but that don’t necessarily need it.
Every summer, I look forward to all the seasonal vegetables I’ll buy at the market and all the pancakes and fritters they’ll become. Having some mix on-hand helps me get there easier.