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Vegan Gamja-jun (Korean Potato Pancakes) Recipe!

August 5, 2012


The land of Korea is almost 70% hills and mountains, so it is only natural that very many Koreans enjoy hiking in their free time. Growing up in Seoul, I used to go up hiking into the small hills or mountains around Seoul with my parents. Although I am not necessarily athletic and didn’t necessarily love the hard work of hiking itself :P, I really miss going out to the mountains to enjoy mountain food. Most Korean mountain food is normally vegan, so apart from being delicious, that’s another reason for us to love it.

Despite Koreans love for hiking, you’ll hear many Koreans joke about how hiking isn’t really about hiking itself — it’s really all about the mountain food, such as namul dishes, pancakes, acorn jelly, and rice wines that go with the mountain food (makgeoli or dongdongju). When Bill and I visited Gyeongju, one of Bill’s favorite memories was eating at the mountain food restaurant right under the beautiful Bulguksa temple. I remember getting some fresh namul dishes along with some pancakes. So yum.

Anyway, one my of my very favorite mountain foods is Gamja-jun (감자전) – potato pancakes. It is such a simple flavor, and yet sooo good. You dip potato pancakes in a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, gochugaru, sesame seeds, and green onions (or white onions). Koreans eat a lot of pancakes when it rains too; you’ll see a ton of families cooking onion pancakes or potato pancakes when it rains in Korea. Neighbors often get together to enjoy pancakes when it rains as well.

It rained in the late afternoon today here in Indiana (rain that was much needed!), and I felt like it would be so nice to go hiking in one of the mountains in Seoul, and get some mountain food. I miss that so much. So I made Gamja-jun! Chewy, crispy, crunchy and yummy gamma-jun – here you go! 😉

Gamja-jun (Korean Potato Pancakes) Recipe!

Pancake Ingredients:
5 big potatoes
several pinches of salt
some chopped veggies (such as chives, zucchini, pepper, green onions, etc.)
1 tbs of potato starch (optional)

Sauce Ingredients:
soy sauce
pinch of gochugaru
sesame seeds (add sesame oil if you’d like as well)
chopped green or white onions

1. Add the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes. Matchstick chop the veggies and set in a separate bowl.
3. Put the potato cubes into a food processor and process it. If you want it to be chewy and soft, thoroughly process it so it’s very soft. If you want it to have some more texture, grind it so it’s less soft. But either way, it has to be a pretty creamy texture when you grind it.
4. Put it in a strainer/cheese cloth so the liquid comes out. I like to use a cheese cloth because it’s just a lot faster that way. The less watery it is, the crunchier  it will be; if you leave some liquid, it will be chewier and softer!
5. Once you let the liquid sit for a couple of minutes, you’ll find that some potato starch has settled at the bottom of the bowl. You want to throw out the water and then mix the settled potato starch back into your batter (optional: you can add a spoonful of packaged potato starch if you’d like your pancake to have a chewier texture).
6. Add the matchstick veggies and several pinches of salt to the batter.
7. Heat your pan on medium-high heat, add a good amount of vegetable oil to your pan to cover the bottom of the pan and use a spoon to scoop in either several small circles of pancake batter or a single large pancake. Cook the pancake until the bottom is browned and then flip and cook the other side. You want your pancakes to be golden yellow or brown so they are crispy.
8. Serve with the sauce (and some makgeoli or dongdongju if you are having it as drinking food). Yum… so easy and so good. Enjoy!

Grinding potatoes for gamja-jun batter
Here we have processed the potatoes so the gamja-jun will be softer.

Straining potatoes for gamja-jun
Strain the potatoes in a cheese cloth to get out the water. Leave more water in for a chewier pancake, less for a crunchier pancake.

gamja-jun batter
Add salt and whatever vegetables you are using and mix. I used Korean zuchhini and green onions today. 

Add the batter to a heated pan with oil. You can make small or large pancakes.

Flip the pancakes when they have browned on the bottom.

When both sides are golden brown, they are ready to eat. Yumm….

Vegan Gamja-jun
Serve with the dipping sauce.


Mmm……, so yummy and satisfying – crispy and chewy gamja-jun on a rainy day (with a bowl of makgeoli!) 😛

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Connie Robinson permalink
    August 5, 2012 9:21 pm

    Looks soooo good. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Sunnie permalink*
      August 5, 2012 9:35 pm

      Hi Connie. Hope you do get to try it. It’s super easy!! Enjoy! 😉

  2. August 8, 2012 4:34 am

    That’s terrific. I make potato pancakes almost exactly the same way. I never thught of trying it with a lovely dipping sauce like that!

    • Sunnie permalink*
      August 8, 2012 9:06 am

      Oh how neat that you make it the same way. Hope you enjoy the dipping sauce!! 😉

  3. Corin Radd permalink
    August 23, 2012 6:51 pm

    I made these and they were yummy. I couldn’t get mine as thin as yours and worried that they wouldn’t cook through, but they did.

    • Bill permalink*
      August 28, 2012 10:32 am

      Glad they turned out nicely for you, Corin. Thanks for letting us know!

  4. Juls Anne permalink
    October 19, 2012 1:26 am

    This is a very different kind of pancake but still looks delicious and well it is healthy.

    • Bill permalink*
      October 20, 2012 8:36 am

      We just love Korean pancakes. There are some amazing restaurants in Seoul that only make pancakes. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

  5. November 15, 2012 3:31 am

    Are the potatoes raw (ie we don’t have to cook it first) before putting in the processor?
    The cooking is done during the frying?

    • Sunnie permalink*
      November 15, 2012 7:30 am

      Yes, raw potatoes are used. They are cooked during frying! Hope you enjoy!! 😉

  6. Dave permalink
    October 17, 2013 9:17 am

    Thanks Sunnie,

    Brings back memories of hiking in Korea. I’m going to make this very soon, and have with some makgeoli!

    • Sunnie permalink*
      October 18, 2013 4:24 pm

      Sounds really yummy. Love makgeoli!

  7. Choji permalink
    January 31, 2014 2:44 pm

    I have never had the sauce before and don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like. Is the amount of Vinegar and Soy Sauce to be equal? Or what are the measurments in Tbsp? Thank you!

    • Bill permalink*
      February 1, 2014 8:19 am

      Hi, Choji. It’s really up to your taste and what you prefer – more or less sour. I typically go with more soy sauce, but you just want to balance the saltiness vs the sourness to your preference. It’s typically the saltiness that’s the main flavor, however. I hope that helps!

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