Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Korean Vegetable Pancakes, or: I cause an oil-slick in my stomach

I can't pretend this was a success, in either execution or taste. Excited by the new cookbook that Father Christmas brought me - Asian Vegan Kitchen by Hema Parekh, which is filled with a huge variety of recipes from across Asia and beautiful photographs - we chose the Korean Vegetable Pancakes as our first foray.

Oh sigh. We got all prepped for this one, with ingredients for the batter, the veggies and the kochujang sauce. The batter recipe called, amongst other things, for rice flour and potato starch. Although the rice flour was easily found, after three supermarkets yielded mountains of potato flour but no starch (which the interwebs informs me are quite, quite different), I subbed arrowroot as a replacement starch.

I couldn't find any kochujang sauce or paste, which I suspect is much more common in the US than Australia. A quick Google revealed that the key ingredients were soy sauce and chilli, and in the interests of breaking 'same same cookering', we subbed Sambal Oelek for crushed chillis. Oh, throw caution to the winds!

My first gripe was making the kochujang sauce. It took Buzz as long to prepare the sauce as it took me to saute the veggies, whisk the batter and cook four pancakes, and not because he's slowpokish. The sheer number of ingredients and steps in the process were just too many to make this sauce worthwhile (although it was yummy ... just aggravatingly labour intensive).

The recipe called for you to pour the batter (which required much more water than stated), frizzle it for a minute, and then press some of the previously sauteed veggies into the top before leaving it another minute, flipping it over, and frizzling it again. Here is the pancake with the veggies patted into the top ... but there is no picture of when I flipped it over because the veg fell off! This technique was not particularly effective and very, very annoying.

I made two pancakes following the recipe, which turned out slippery and pale despite a lot of frizzling.

Frustrated, Buzz called for a radical rethink and suggested that we mix the veggies and batter together to make fritters. We gave it a go, and the new mixture did stick together pretty well. However, it did require masses and masses of oil to keep frittering, so let's not pretend that this is in any way a healthy kind of veggie dish. Look at the sludge around the edge of my poor Magic Pan!

The huge quantity of oil we used in the sauces and the pan was enough to make a whale feel sludgy. To add a bit of blandness to fatness, the batter itself was as blah as beige can be, despite the addition of my lovingly toasted sesame seeds. I ate these pancakey-fritters with a growing sense that I was heavily moisturised and had slapped on a full tube of lip gloss as the oil started seeping out of my pores. I am completely uninterested in your feedback that it was I who poured the oil into the pan. Don't care, won't care, will complain.

In all, the idea of fritters came out a winner, with Buzz declaring an intention to make some again soon. However, out will go the sesame oil, sesame seeds, sauteed vegetables, floury batter, and the death of a whole field of canola to contribute the amount of oil needed to mix and fry. In will come more vegetables, a soy-flavoured batter, and spray oil. And out with the rocket-science level sauce-making.


Seitahn said...

I have this cookbook. I'll be watching with interest to see what else you cook from it. It's a shame your first recipe turned out so-so.


Miss T said...

I know, it's such a great book and I'll definitely be trying more recipes. I love the range of cuisines (and the great photos) so I'm sure there won't be any more duds!

lisa said...

I have been coveting this book FOREVER. Pity your first recipe didn't turn out... hopefully the rest can Bring It.

steph said...

I have this book! I've had it for about a year and a half, and I've found it a mixed bag. Some of the recipes have been really great, and some of them have been a bit bland. But overall I like it!

KateS said...

What a shame after all that work! I have seen this book around when working in libraries (but never borrowed for some reason) - hope your next recipe is a success!