Meatless Monday: Korean Snack Plate

As I mentioned last week, I’ve long put off Korean cookery, but Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee’s new book has now got me champing at the bit. I kicked off my Korean kitchen party with a trio of dishes that play so nicely together you might think they’ve been friends forever.

(Kim O'Donnel)

First mate: spinach, ever-so-quickly steamed, then squeezed, squeezed of its water until it’s dry as a bone, chopped, then tossed with a kicky soy sauce seasoned with scallions, garlic and sesame seeds. Total cook time: Maybe 12 minutes.
(By the way, have you heard the latest about spinach – it’s now being studied for tumor reduction! )

Second mate: A super-cinchy dipping sauce of soy, scallions, garlic and more sesame seeds. (Are you starting to see a theme?) This little number takes a whopping 3 minutes, and then has a chance to steep while you fry up a batch of rice flour veggie-studded pancakes.

In her book, Lee offers two nearly identical versions of these savory morsels -- one with egg, one without -- and recommends mixing and matching veggies to keep things interesting. Should you decide to do the vegan version (simply omit the egg and proceed as directed, below), be prepared for a flatter pancake; I might also suggest a little more oil -- enough to line the surface of your skillet.

I like to pour the batter (which is a no brainer to put together) into a liquid measuring cup with a spout, then portion out with a ½ cup measure to maintain consistency of pancake size and thickness.

Estimate 6-8 minutes per pancake, which translates in a solid 30ish minutes at the stove. Still, dinner is ready in 45 minutes, and it feels fresh and dances on your tongue. One last note: This little triumvirate makes for a light supper or groovy snack plate, a collection of small plates perfect for summer eves or a mid-afternoon lull on the back porch.

Korean Veggie Pancakes
Adapted from “Quick & Easy Korean Cooking” by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup rice flour
1 large egg
2 cups cold water
½ red bell pepper, diced
KOD add-ons: ½ carrot, grated; 1 scallion, sliced into thin rounds, a few chives, chopped into ringlets
1 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying
Seasoned soy sauce for dipping (recipe to follow)

Combine flour, rice flour, egg and water in a mixing bowl and beat vigorously with a fork or a whisk, until lumps are gone. Consistency should resemble thin pancake batter.

Add veggies and salt, and stir to combine.

In a medium skillet, heat ½ teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat. Pour about ½ cup of batter into pan and spread it thin, until about 8 inches in diameter. Cook until edges start to brown and the center becomes slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. With a wide spatula, flip pancake and cook on the other side, reducing heat if necessary, for an additional 4-5 minutes. Make sure that the second is cooked all the way through or you will end up with gummy pancakes. Remove from pan and place on a cutting board. (KOD: I kept covered-- you could do this in a low oven, too.)

Repeat until all of the batter is used, stacking pancakes on top of one another. Cut into wedges and serve with seasoned soy sauce.

Makes approximately 8 pancakes.

Seasoned Soy Sauce

Adapted from “Quick & Easy Korean Cooking” by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

¼ cup soy sauce
1 scallion, cleaned, root removed, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Korean chile powder (KOD: I improvised with what I had on hand)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.

If serving as a dipping sauce, divide among small individual bowls. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container.

Makes about ½ cup.

Seasoned Spinach

Adapted from “Quick & Easy Korean Cooking” by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee
2 bunches spinach, rinsed and trimmed (KOD: I used about 1 ½ bunches)
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, root removed, chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Bring about ¼ inch water to a boil in a large pot (KOD: I think you could also do this in the microwave easily.) Add spinach, cover and steam until leaves are just wilted, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Squeeze water from spinach and shape into a ball (KOD: I know, it seems weird, but just you wait.). Cut ball in half, then in half again.

In a mixing bowl, combine spinach with sesame oil, garlic, scallion, seseame seeds and salt. Allow to steep for at least 10 minutes.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 4 servings. Keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 18, 2009; 7:20 AM ET Meatless Monday
Previous: Bourbon Cherry Lemonade? Heck Yeah! | Next: Getting Grounded With Chicken & Dumplings


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Hi, Kim (and anyone else who can help)! I have a meatless Monday question: I'd like to do a roast sweet potato with some kind of Thai curry-esque topping for dinner tonight. In my cupboard/kitchen, I have a can of chickpeas, a can of black beans, a can of kidney beans, a can of coconut milk, some red curry paste, some ginger, some garlic, some lamb's quarter from the farmer's market, and some veggie stock (along with the sweet potatoes, of course). I know there's a dinner in there, but I can't quite see how to get it out. Help!

Posted by: jbs280 | May 18, 2009 9:29 AM

Jbs280, here's a link to a recipe for mashed sweet potatoes with red curry paste and sweet potatoes. It's a serious goodie:

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 18, 2009 11:01 AM

To JBS; there is a sweet potato falafel in today's 101 cookbook:

Sweet Potato Falafel

Baked Sweet Potato Falafel
These falafel are Leon's most popular veggie dish to date. They knew they wanted falafel on the menu, but chose not to have deep fryers. After some experimenting, this sweet potato and chickpea flour version was developed.

2 medium sweet potatoes (orange inside), around 700g or 1 1/2 pounds in total
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 big handfuls of fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
a scant cup (120g) gram /chickpea flour
a splash of olive oil
a sprinkling of sesame seeds
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees (220C) and roast the sweet potatoes whole until just tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off the oven, leave the potatoes to cool, then peel.

Put the sweet potatoes, cumin, garlic, ground and fresh coriander, lemon juice and gram/chickpea flour into a large bowl. Season well, and mash until smooth with no large chunks. Stick in the fridge to firm up for an hour, or the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you take it out, your mix should be sticky rather than really wet. You can add a tablespoon or so more of chickpea flour if necessary (the water content of sweet potatoes varies enormously).

Reheat the oven to 400F/200C. Using a couple of soup spoons (put a well-heaped spoonful of mix in one spoon and use the concave side of the other to shape the sides) or a falafel scoop if you have one, make the mixture into falafelly looking things and put them on an oiled tray. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the bases are golden brown.

Makes about 18 falafel, enough for 4 - 6.

Posted by: carmen2 | May 18, 2009 1:16 PM

Thanks, all! Here's what I ended up doing:

Sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked, went into the 400 degree oven for an hour.

Red onions, a garlic clove, and a hunk of ginger were finely chopped in a food processor and sauteed in a tablespoon of canola oil over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes.

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 teaspoon tumeric, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, a big pinch of salt and a cardamom pod were tossed into the pan and sauteed for 1 minute.

1/2 can veggie stock, 1/2 can coconut milk and the juice of half a lemon were stirred in. I tasted it, and added a couple big pinches of sugar. Sauce simmered for a minute or two, then I chucked in the drained can of chickpeas. Let the whole thing simmer for 5 minutes, then topped the sweet potatoes with the chickpea curry. Highly recommended!

Posted by: jbs280 | May 18, 2009 8:45 PM

Hi Kim,

What did you use for Korean chile powder?

That brought back flashbacks... when I was stationed in the Western Corridor, the local KATUSA snackbar folks would dry their chiles on my extended AVLBs (armored vehicular-launched bridge). I was so not into cooking back then, and never thought to pick their brains about varieties and preparation. Ah, to re-do the mistakes of my youth!

Posted by: 12thManTrainingTable | May 19, 2009 7:01 AM

Hey Kim,

Do you need that rice flour? I don't have any and was wondering if it's worth to buy an ingredient that I don't think I'd use otherwise. Would it work to just sub that amount of rice flour with all purpose?


Posted by: cf07 | May 19, 2009 9:36 AM

Cf07, according to the author of "Quick & Easy Korean Cooking," It's okay to use 100 percent AP flour, but understand that the pancakes will be less chewy. The rice flour does offer a little extra texture to the end result. Maybe you share a box with a neighbor?

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 19, 2009 10:50 AM

12thManTrainingTable, I improvised with what I had on hand, but my plan this week is to head to an Asian grocery here in Seattle. I'm in need of a whole bunch of Asian pantry items and will be exploring. The way that Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee explains it is that Korean chile powder comes in varying grades of coarseness and heat. She says that the medium-fine powder is the most versatile.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 19, 2009 11:07 AM

Jbs280, look at you! High five for your improv sense and sensibility. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 19, 2009 11:09 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company