In a shift from winter back to cooking in the moment, we followed our noses and found fragrant green garlic at the Exeter Farmers’ Market, freshly dug from Meadow’s Mirth Farm. We came away with a heady armful, and quickly made a change in plans to make pajeon, a savory Korean pancake. Traditionally made with scallions or green onions, we suspected the green garlic would make an even more delicious substitute.
Like other garden alliums, all parts of the garlic plant are edible. This includes their patiently cleaned roots, which we’ve seen deep fried into a crispy tangle to glorious affect. At this stage (above), they more resemble scallions, and, though we can imagine these stalks developing from a sprouting clove, it’s still a mystery to us how the slender end eventually transforms into a head of garlic.
Green garlic may be stored like other herbs — such as cilantro or dill — that come with their roots attached by wrapping the end in a damp paper towel, and kept in the refrigerator in a closed bin. The damp paper towel provides moisture to prolong its shelflife, while the closed bin protects delicate greens from the dry refrigerator air.
The size of green garlic will vary with the variety, and some may be the size of small leeks. The thicker bulb ends may be halved lengthwise to allow them to cook with the rest of the stalk at a more even pace. When cutting the wild garlic into same-sized pieces, keep them parallel and facing the same way (above); this will allow you to easily form a rectangular pancake.
While most other recipes for pajeon include eggs, this vegan-friendly batter is a simple mix of flour and water seasoned with a dollop of doenjang, a type of soybean paste; if this isn’t something you keep in your cupboard, miso will also work. To avoid the batter becoming gluey and dense, wait to mix batter until right before using. The process of frying, shaping, and flipping the pancake are well described in this video. Otherwise, you can cut the green garlic into smaller pieces, mix everything together, and make it into a round.
As a garnish, we took some of our dried red shishito peppers, trimmed and seeded, and, using a very sharp knife, shredded it into the thinnest possible of slivers. This gave us a sweet version of silgochu, or Korean chili threads, a recent discovery that has us looking forward to experimenting with local peppers once the season arrives.
Pajeon — Savory Korean Pancakes with Green Garlic
10 stalks green garlic, or green onions
½ cup flour
½ cup water
1 teaspoon doenjang (soybean paste), or miso
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Silgochu (red pepper threads) for garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
Red chili pepper (optional)
– Wash green garlic or green onions, and pat dry. Trim off root ends, and cut stalks into 5-inch pieces. When ready to fry pancakes, mix flour, water and doenjang soybean paste together until it forms a smooth batter.
– Place a skillet on the stove and heat up. Add vegetable oil to heated pan, then add the green garlic, placing them next to one another to form a rectangle. Pour the batter over the green garlic as evenly as you can. Let it cook for several minutes, then, when the bottom has begun to set and brown, flip pancake over. Cook until the bottom is crispy and golden brown, and flip the pancake again to finish browning the top. When done, flip the pancake one last time, presentation side up, and serve hot with dipping sauce.
– To make dipping sauce: Stir the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar together in a small bowl. If desired, snipped rounds of red chili pepper may be added for spice.
Adapted from Maangchi.
Local ingredients: Green garlic from Meadow’s Mirth; whole wheat sifted flour from Maine Grains; miso from South River Miso; sunflower oil from Coppal House Farm; dried red shishito peppers from the garden.