Marie Myung-Ok Lee's Favorite Comfort Food: Too-Many-Garlic-Chives Buchu Jeon (부추전)

June 15, 2020

Korean pancakes come in both savory and sweet types. “Jeon” is the generic term for savory pancakes that can include kimchi, seafood, green onions — and here, garlic chives.

Garlic chives can be a pain to clean if you get them from a farmer, as I do. But once cleaned of dirt, they are amazingly resilient. Back when I used to travel a lot (Travel? What’s that?), I had cleaned a bunch but hadn’t had time to use them. I threw them into the freezer, and now with the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, I defrosted them, then promptly forgot about them for a week. I threw them in some jeon dipped in (gluten-free) soy sauce, and it was a great lunch.

This recipe is (1) the way I cook, basically flinging things together and (2) dependent on the amount of garlic chives you have. You can use a jeon mix, but I’m gluten-free and came up with my own.

What you need

  • Sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice)
  • Water
  • Tapioca flour (esp if you like a chewier texture)
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • Garlic chives left long, maybe cut in half once

Clean the chives and put in a large bowl along with flours (3/4 rice flour, 1/4 tapioca flour ratio), a dash of salt to taste, 1/2-1 teaspoon baking soda. Stir in egg. The trick is to have LESS batter, like a tempura. It should be mostly chives dusted with flour. If it’s too thick (if it's not like pancake batter), add egg. It should be a hair thicker than pancake batter, more like a paste so that it can keep the veggies together. 

Oil a skillet with a neutral oil (I use avocado) on medium high, and cook until slightly golden brown. Flip, repeat. Mine aren't round because my pan is small, so I make them whatever shape to fit. But they still taste great!

Sauce: plain soy sauce, coconut aminos, a mix of sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, toasted sesame seeds on top. Or make a dipping sauce for the lazy with half soy sauce and half X’ian Famous Food’s chili oil. Enjoy! 


Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s next novel is The Evening Hero, and her YA, Finding My Voice, is being re-released in December. She teaches at Columbia and is a founder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop