Chilean Sea Pancakes

by Ben on December 18, 2011 · 39 comments

in Gluten Free, Index, Korean, Pescatarian

I understand that anyone can have an off-day, but to whoever was responsible for naming the mung bean? Maybe you should have focus-grouped that. To be fair, it never occurred to me, all these years, that I was eating products derived from a legume many uninitiated Americans would think sounds vaguely like elimination product. When I started cooking with mung beans myself, I learned quickly that:

  1. An astonishing fraction of my peer group has never knowingly eaten mung beans.
  2. People who’ve never eaten mung beans think I’m the freak.

“Whatcha makin’?”
“Mung bean pancakes!”
“Ohhhhh, that sounds… Great!

The forced enthusiasm accompanies a look of thinly veiled disgust, as if I’d just passed gas, or secretly replaced the tuna salad with cat food. The striking thing is that it’s not as if I’m talking about durian or balut—both cases in which a person might have the foggiest idea why she’s repulsed by the concept. Rather, said person often doesn’t even know what mung beans look like. She simply doesn’t like the sound of it.

As the parent of a picky eater, I understand that certain keywords are a no-no for pitching new foods to a young child. For example, “spicy,” “green,” “new,” etc. On the other hand, Esme reacts positively to spicy, green, new foods that are tagged: “honey,” “chocolate,” “sweet,” or “halmoni,” (the Korean word for Grandma, with whom Esme associates the vast majority of her favorite foods).

In other words, it’s all in the packaging—an effect all too familiar to the Patagonian toothfish, whose wildly successful rebrand as “Chilean Sea Bass” propelled it to the brink of extinction.

There’s no need for me to sell Esme on the premise of “halmoni pancakes,” since she already adores them. I have, however, been able to repurpose the “halmoni” modifier to get her to try jajangmyeon, which she scarfed down with extreme prejudice, despite her general aversion to brown food and noodles.

For you, I offer another Mom Food staple: a savory pancake along the vein of the beloved pajeon, but with a more robust texture.

* * * * *

Chilean Sea Pancakes, or
Bindaetteok
 (Korean Mung Bean Pancakes)

2 C dried, skinned mung beans (or, as I now like to call them, “Chilean Sea Peas”)
1/4 C uncooked, short grain white rice
water
about 2 C spicy cabbage kimchi
kimchi liquid (from the jar of kimchi you used above)
1 round onion, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
vegetable or grapeseed oil
optional:
2 korean or jalapeno peppers, sliced and seeded
salt
fish sauce

Soak mung beans and rice in 4 C of cold water, covered, for at least 3 hours and as long as overnight. Hepinstall advises boiling them for 30 minutes as an alternative to soaking. That has never worked for me. In my experience, cooked beans will blend into a sticky paste that doesn’t form pancakes when fried.

Drain the soaked beans/rice and reserve liquid. Working in batches, puree the beans and rice until just smooth, slowly adding small amounts of the bean liquid as necessary to achieve a consistency slightly thicker than cake batter. Store in the refrigerator during the next steps.

Squeeze kimchi in paper towels to lightly drain. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Tip: Kimchi tends to stain like a motherfucker. Don’t chop it directly on a cutting board, since it’s impossible to clean thoroughly. Cover your cutting surface with a flattened milk carton.

Question: Does it matter what kimchi I use? Yes. There’s a huge dynamic range of flavor and quality here, but as a general rule, you should use kimchi that you’d be thrilled to eat straight. I do tend to use kimchi that’s more on the acidic side, as a chunk of that provides nice contrast with the rest of the pancake. Kimchi gets more acidic the longer it ferments, so don’t use super-young kimchi. Unless, of course, that’s all you have.

Combine pureed beans, chopped kimchi, onion, and scallions and stir well. Add kimchi liquid and bean liquid to achieve a cake batter-like consistency. How much kimchi liquid relative to bean liquid? It really depends on how spicy the kimchi is, and how spicy you want the pancakes. I find cooked kimchi to be pretty mellow, so I add enough liquid to make the batter distinctly orange. I backed off a bit in this case so as not to freak out my daughter:

The pancakes will be crisper if the batter is cold. So if you want, make the batter in advance and chill until you’re ready to cook.

To fry the pancakes, use a 12-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet. An electric skillet or griddle also works. In any case, heat a liberal amount of oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. The oil should certainly cover the entire surface of the pan when swirled. Use slightly more than that. With a large dinner spoon or soup spoon, quickly spoon batter into the pan to make four pancakes roughly 3 inches in diameter. They should be about 1/2 inch thick when cooked—that should help you adjust the batter thickness as you go along. If desired, add a few sliced peppers atop each pancake. At this point, you have roughly 1 – 2 minutes before the batter sets. I use that time to make the pancakes uniform and round, tucking in the edges with the outside of my spoon. But you know, I’m a bit anal that way.

Once the bottom of the pancakes is browned and crisp (about 2 minutes—you’ll see the edges start to brown), flip the pancakes and cook for another 2 minutes. Optionally, flip once more and cook for a minute. Set pancakes aside and allow them to blot on paper napkins or brown paper bags.

After you’ve made the first batch of pancakes, remove the pan from heat. Taste the pancakes and adjust for thickness (bean liquid), spiciness (kimchi liquid), or other flavor (salt, fish sauce). The pancakes are by far the best when they’ve just come from the pan. They should be crisp on the outside, but not overly browned. The inside should be cooked, but tender. If they’re high and cakey, you’ll want to add more liquid.

Once you’re done futzing, heat the pan, adding more oil if necessary, and make the next batch of 4. I often make twice this recipe or more, so once I’ve got the batter dialed in, the frying goes very quickly. Cook the rest of the pancakes. This recipe yields 15 – 20 pancakes 3″ in diameter and about 1/2″ high.

Adaptation for meatitarians:

This dish is often made with pork. Make no mistake: it is very good with pork. However, that does take a bit more work, and I tend to be lazy/rushed/perfectly satisfied with the pescatarian version. If you must have pork, I don’t recommend doing what some recipes suggest, which is to add ground pork to the batter. My mom and I have each tried that technique, and agree that the flavor of the pork gets diluted in batter and doesn’t add much.

My mom boils about a pound of pork shoulder in water seasoned with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. When the meat is tender, she slices it thinly and adds coin-sized pieces of sliced pork to the pancake just after the batter has hit the pan. Alternatively, you could season the slices of cooked pork lightly with yang nyum soy sauce immediately before adding to the pancake.

Serve immediately, or let people eat as you go. I calibrate the amount of kimchi liquid so that they are perfectly delicious without any sauce. However, they are also commonly served with yang nyum soy sauce or any variety of soy dipping sauces. Substitute tamari if you want to keep it gluten-free.

Like I said, I tend to make a lot of these pancakes, which refrigerate and freeze well. When reheating, you can pan-fry them, which will restore the crisp exterior. They are also perfectly fine (albeit softer/soggier) microwaved.

Share share

39 comments… read them below or add one

Lori Lynn December 19, 2011 at 7:05 am

Hi Ben – this post was so timely, my friends, The Lees, are coming over this afternoon to show me how to make bindaetteok! Good idea to rename! Ha! Once I get the hang of it, I’ll have to make them for my nephews.
LL

Reply

Ben December 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Let me know how you like my version. :)

Reply

Sam @ The Second Lunch December 19, 2011 at 7:51 am

Hi Ben, it’s lovely to see you back! For the record, I *love* mung beans and hope that they can come into style here. Maybe we can start a campaign. I use them for Dal, or simply make a riff on my mom’s Turkish red lentil soup, except with mung beans, for that beautiful golden color.

Reply

Ben December 19, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Nice. Who’s going to design the hideous badge we will require everyone in the Circle of Mung Bean Lovers to display?

Reply

Marcie December 19, 2011 at 9:53 am

Question for you. So most dishes I have had that have mung beans in, have been slightly sweet. Is it that the beans are slightly sweet, or the Korean dishes I have had them in, the chef has added something sweet? Never had them by themselves.

Reply

Ben December 19, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Nope. Not sweet. Which dishes?

Reply

Caitlin December 19, 2011 at 10:07 am

Did our conversation at the holiday party inspire a new post?? glad to see it!

Reply

Ben December 19, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I knew I needed to get off my ass. Might be the last one of this format, however. Glad we got to chat at the party!

Reply

Amy Kim December 19, 2011 at 10:27 am

yum. i have a big old bag of mung beans and soybeans in the pantry. need to do something with it soon…

great post! halmoni ‘anything’ works for my kids. i’ve also discovered that my kids, especially the super picky Charlie, will eat anything encrusted in panko.

Reply

Ben December 19, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Biji-jigae for the soybeans! Been a while since I had that.

Reply

Jean December 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

…or renaming a delicious cake I found on the web years ago dried plum cake. Its real name doesn’t have as much appeal somehow.

I love mung beans but I’ve never had them this way–need to make some Chilean Sea Pancakes soon!

Reply

Ben December 19, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Ha! Dried plums is already a rebrand of prunes. How about “prune loaf?” That sounds delicious.

Reply

Mariko December 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I despise mung bean sprouts. That is probably why I have my face squished up into an EW at the thought of mung bean pancakes. But at least I’ve heard of them. Ha ha.

I eat them, but I have to not think about their slightly water chestnut texture and cold tails.

You are so right about the buzz words for a picky eater.

Reply

Ben December 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm

I don’t like mung bean sprouts as much as soybean sprouts. But yeah, the dried beans are nothing like the sprouts. More like lentils.

Reply

Jackie December 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Ben I *want* these. Seriously. They look awesome – dibs when I’m next back in town!

I sometimes find that when I’m trying to describe a Chinese dish to Western friends I can’t actually find the translation for it as I only know it in its Cantonese form – it takes me ages to describe it and by that point said friends usually have an expression somewhere between confusion, boredom and disgust on their faces. Also, my faves usually involve some bit of offal that nobody else wants to eat.

I don’t mind though – it just means I get more food for me!

Jax x

Reply

Elizabeth December 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm

These look so delicious!!

Reply

Charr Douglas December 30, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I just found your website but had to say I love the name….mainly because once in 1969…the year of Woodstock and all, we were at a similair type gathering and someone gave my baby son chili…spicy hot chili, and guess what? He gobbled it up and to this day still loves spicy food!

Reply

Vijitha January 10, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Hello Ben
I found your website from the campblog away site. You have a lovely space and I kinda adore the name. It’s funny and nice. I am planning to attend the conference and I am looking forward meeting you there.

Reply

Ben January 12, 2012 at 8:06 am

Oh, cool! I know your blog from Foodbuzz. Thanks for stopping by, and look forward to meeting you!

Reply

Deanna January 23, 2012 at 10:38 am

Chilean sea peas sounds way more appealing that mung beans. I don’t know that I’ve ever tried them, but I’m not actively avoiding them. I save that for bananas. I’ll have to go buy some now that I have a few recipes that call for them.

Reply

Susanne Park February 3, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Dude, biji-jigae? How are you going to make that look like anything but a bowl of sick? I love your blog, and I’m making bindaettok asap, even though I’ll probably be the only one in my twinkie-ass house to eat it. Keep up the good work.

Reply

Ben February 6, 2012 at 1:14 am

Thanks for the nice words. Regarding the visual for bigi-jigae, I have a plan. :)

Reply

Sara April 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Ben-
Your website and this mung bean recipe came at the perfect time—I just spent 2 hours in a large Korean grocery store in Flushing in the hopes to create the home meals that my daughters will eat. They are sweet and salty fans, with a flair for “no” upon anything new. I just might be able to get Mung Bean pancakes past them! I enjoyed your prose. Thank you for working hard so I don’t have to (or a little less)!
Sara

Reply

SB May 9, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Lol! The title of this post was a head-scratcher at first, but it made me crack up once I got it. Love the pescatarian tag.

I hate it when people make these super thick, because it’s all about the crispy outside, right?

Reply

Ben May 18, 2012 at 12:27 am

Just had some at my Mom’s and she made them even thinner and lighter than I’ve ever had. So good.

Reply

SB May 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Wait, did you stop blogging?

Reply

Ben May 18, 2012 at 12:34 am

I thought you had stopped reading! :)

I haven’t retired from blogging, but I’m focusing on some other things right now. I would like to do a lot with the site; hopefully I’ll have time soon.

Reply

Marla August 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Just had these for the first time tonight – amazing!

Reply

Ben August 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Thanks, Marla. I recently had my mom’s, and they are infinitely lighter, crisp on the outside. I asked her how she did it, and she just shrugged, and said, “I never make it the same way.” I’m comforted knowing that her sister-in-law can’t figure out how she does it, either. :)

Reply

JB September 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Hi, I’ve never posted here but I Iove your blog. Beautiful writing and pictures. Have you given it up?

Reply

Ben September 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Redesign. Hold tight. :)

Reply

sondra September 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Can I use mung bean powder if I am short on dried beans?

Reply

Ben September 6, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I don’t recommend that. I’ve never worked with mung bean powder, but my understanding is that it turns into a gel when you add water, which is very different consistency from the cake-batter-like texture that you want.

The problem is that pulverizing dried beans into a fine powder, then adding water is quite different from soaking whole beans and then blending. The normal batter has a bit of a grit to it.

That said, if anyone else has successfully made pancakes with mung bean powder, please enlighten me.

Reply

sondra September 7, 2012 at 7:43 am

Thanks. I made my first batch. Clearly the Kimchi was not the finest and these do not have the spice I recall. years ago I would buy these as street vendor food in Pittsburgh, PA in front of a little market. Is it possible they used bean sprouts in the pancakes as well?

Reply

Ben September 7, 2012 at 8:56 am

Cool; how did they turn out, otherwise? The kimchi is kind of a personal thing. Actually, my mom called me the day after I posted to let me know that she doesn’t but kimchi broth in the batter. I replied, “Well, I do!”

This just in from my mom:

“One of my friends told me Korean market sells mung bean powder. She once tried to make mung bean pancake with the powder and didn’t come out the same taste. So I checked about mung bean powder through internet in Korean. Some made pancakes with the powder and their recipes were varies but they add eggs and flour for the batter about 3:2 and some people added Korean pancake mix which has all seasoned so you don’t need salt. The whole mung bean is green so the batter was light green color and was pretty. I would put blanched mung bean sprouts in the batter than we can get more mung bean taste. Sometimes I do use mung bean sprouts when I have it ready. The part I don’t like it takes longer time to make the pancake. If I make batter thicker then it won’t taste good. :(

Reply

Charlotte March 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

yum!! I love mung beans. munggggg beeeans! it’s a cute name really. I forget what I made for Esme when you and your family visited Cassava the other day but I hope it passed her picky-eating prejudices. It was great to meet you and I hope you come back again next weekend!!

Reply

Ben March 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Charlotte, thanks for introducing yourself and making me feel like like a star for 5 minutes. :) Esme had the scramble with toast. She ate a lot of it, as I recall. We’ll definitely be back, so that I can have the Japanese breakfast, which is completely up my alley. The rice was perfect. See you soon.

Reply

Renee February 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

Help! I can’t get skinned mung beans where I live and I tried to take the skin off soaked beans, but it didn’t work. What can I do?

Reply

Ben February 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Hi there, Renee. I’ve read that you can get the skins off of soaked beans, but never tried it. Sounds like it would be difficult to get them all off. You could try using them in a recipe that calls for whole mung beans, like this one:

http://www.thecookingdoctor.co.uk/2013/10/bubur-kacang-hijau-mung-bean-in-palm-sugar-and-coconut-milk-stew.html

Good luck!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: