Sunday, November 21, 2010

Crispy Vegetable Pancakes

Nom nom nom. Crispy vegetable pancakes were the order of the day... or, for breakfast, at least. I wasn't hungry when I woke up, so by the time I decided I wanted to eat something, it was nearly time for lunch. So I figured that I'd go with an all-purpose brunch food, something savoury and filling, but a little more creative than my usual breakfast food. So I decided on vegetable pancakes, using the leftover garlic kale in my fridge. Sure, I'm a fan of leftovers for breakfast, but I already had some of the leftover kale yesterday at breakfast. ;) I have to keep things interesting, you know!

So I decided to make it into crispy pancakes, Asian-style. The original idea for these was based on a thin, delicious pancake that I ate in South Korea more than a decade ago. It was made by my host-grandmother and I remember tearing off pieces with chopsticks, enjoying every bite, as the girl who was hosting me tore into it alongside. We could barely communicate, sure, but I'm pretty sure that the pancake transcended that. When I got back to Australia, I made a similar version, using spring onions and sometimes really finely shaved green capsicum. I later expanded into thin strips of other vegetables, and generally stick to thicker fritters with a lighter, airier batter than the original flour-and-water mix. But for this one, I decided on some familiar flavours: greens, spring onion, chilli, garlic, and sesame oil. The first one was so good that I ate the entire thing before I remembered to add salt. Alternately, slice it and dip it into soy sauce and chilli as you eat. Heavenly.

You'll see in the second photo here that I've let the batter set completely before flipping it. I cook these over a high heat, and by letting the batter completely set, not only am I allowing the bottom to crisp up, I'm making it easier to flip the pancake in one piece. If you try to flip too soon, much like any ordinary pancake, you'll just make a mess of it. This recipe is me using maximum veg to minimum batter, which means it's a little more fragile than a normal pancake or fritter, but I didn't have any troubles. Normally I shy away from using very much oil (and for some pancakes, I don't use any!) but here, you need it. You'll never achieve the crispy outside if you don't use oil. So hey, live a little. Does the below photo make anyone else think of those satellite maps of rivers and mountains? Hm, never mind.

Crispy Vegetable Pancakes
1 cup plain flour
1 & 1/2 cups cooked greens, chopped*
1/2 cup soymilk
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/crushed
1 tsp siracha or chilli paste
1 tsp sesame oil
2 large spring onions, greens included, finely chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder (optional; for those who like a lighter pancake)

Mix flour, baking powder and soymilk together with enough water to make a thin pancake batter. Into this batter, stir the greens, siracha, garlic, spring onions and sesame oil.
Fry the batter in thin pancakes - pour about a half-cup into the hot, oiled pan and press it with a fork to distribute. If you press down on the mix with a fork, batter comes up between the vegetables, and keeps it from developing too many holes (which can happen when you're spreading it just by pushing).
Allow the batter to set to enable easier flipping. When the underside is golden and crunchy, flip the pancake, and cook until the second side is equally toasty.
Serve with a sprinkling of salt, or with soy sauce for dipping.

* You can, of course, use many other vegetables. The idea is that they're finely sliced, so that you can get them even distributed throughout the pancake. Raw greens would be somewhat harder to work with, due to their volume (and their shape, if you're using curly kale), which is why I recommend using leftover cooked greens.


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