Gamjajeon (감자전) is a variety of Korean savory pancake (jeon) made with grated or ground potatoes (감자). It’s a humble dish that can simply be made with potatoes. It’s also very common to add other vegetables such as garlic chives, scallions, chili peppers, zucchinis, etc. This recipe is a very basic one, inspired by a simple potato pancake I had as an appetizer, at a restaurant specializing in noodle soup, in Samcheong-dong neighborhood of Seoul. It reminded me of the potato pancakes I enjoyed during our high school field trip to Seorak Mountain, Gangwon-do, the province that is known for their delicious potatoes.
All you need is a couple of potatoes, but a little bit of onion helps prevent discoloring of the potatoes without overpowering the flavor of the potatoes. Make sure to grate the onion first so you can mix with the potato as soon as it’s grated.
You can grate the potatoes on a grater or grind them in a blender or a food processor. I like to grate them on a grater for a coarse texture. Whichever method you use, you need to remove some water content from the grated potatoes, or it will be too watery for a pancake batter. Do not throw away the drained water since it contains valuable starch. Let the starch water sit for a while until the starch sinks to the bottom and forms a dense, white layer. Carefully pour out the water, and use the starch in the batter. This is the traditional way to make a potato pancake batter without adding flour or powder starch.
- 1/4 medium onion
- 1-1/2 pounds potatoes (2 large or 3 medium)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- oil for pan frying
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of black pepper
- Peel and grate the onion (about 2 to 3 tablespoons). Place in a large bowl. Peel and grate the potatoes, capturing the liquid. If using a blender or food processor, grind the onion and potatoes together.
- Drain the grated potato in a bowl lined with a strainer, reserving the liquid. Immediately transfer to the bowl with the grated onion, and mix well with the onion to prevent discoloring of the potato.
- Let the reserved liquid sit for about 10 minutes. The starch in the liquid will sink to the bottom. Carefully pour out the water, saving the starch. Add the starch and salt to the grated potato. Mix well.
- Heat a skillet with two tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add 1/2 of the batter, and spread it evenly into a round shape. You can make smaller pancakes if you like. Reduce the heat to medium low, and cook until the bottom is light golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Repeat the process with the remaining batter. Serve hot with a dipping sauce.