Next Monday, September 8, is Chuseok (Korean harvest/mid-autumn festival). Most Korean homes make several types of jeon dishes (pan-fried battered food) for their holiday feast. Wanjajeon is among the popular choices. Meatballs are called gogi wanja in Korean and used in many traditional dishes such as soups or hotpots. When they are egg-battered and pan-fried, they are called wanjajeon. They are also commonly called donggeurangddaeng, meaning a round thing.
To make jeon, the meatballs are gently pressed into mini patties. I prefer to use a mixture of beef and pork, but you can also use all beef or all pork. To achieve a smooth texture, take extra time to finely chop the vegetables and mix all the ingredients very well by hand. The meat patties can be prepared ahead of time and pan-fried on the day of serving. Enjoy it on your Chuseok table or simply as an appetizer or side dish with any meal.
1 pound ground beef (or combination of beef and pork)
4 to 6 ounces tofu, squeezed and crushed
1/2 medium onion
1/2 medium carrot
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper to taste
3 eggs, beaten well
1/2 cup flour
vegetable or canola oil for pan-frying
Combine all the prepared ingredients, and mix very well by hand until everything is evenly blended, crushing any remaining big pieces of tofu. You can cook a little bit in the microwave (or in a pan) to see if it needs more salt.
Heat a non-stick pan over medium low heat. Coat the pan evenly with 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Dip each piece in the egg, and carefully place in the heated skillet. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, adding more oil, until the meat is cooked through. The meat is ready if it feels firm. Clean the pan, and repeat with the remaining pieces.