Do you like shrimp?
I think pretty much all seafood lovers will accept a shrimp, if offered. Korean cuisine has many recipes that use shrimp, and I love them all, but today I’m going to show you how to make shrimp pancakes (saeujeon: saeu means shrimp and jeon means pancake) from jumbo shrimp.
Yes, I said jumbo shrimp! When you make saeujeon, you need to make them from jumbo shrimp, even though it’s more expensive. It will be worth it!
Whenever you buy seafood, of course the first thing to do is check the freshness. Shrimp is no exception, and even flash-frozen shrimp is better than old shrimp. How do you know if shrimp is fresh?
First of all, it looks firm and shiny. Secondly, it won’t be smelly at all. It may smell like the ocean a bit – that’s a beautiful smell! – but it won’t be stinky. When shopping at the fish market, smell the shrimp as fast and indiscreetly as you can, otherwise no fishmonger will be happy to see a weird customer sniffing his shrimp.
You may ask: “Can I make it with smaller shrimp? I can’t afford to jumbo size, guys!”
My answer is: “Of course you can! Make 2 or 3 shrimp in one pancake, if you insist.”
But it will take more time to shell tiny shrimp. If I see someone shelling tiny shrimp one by one, I usually joke: “Don’t cook the shrimp with your hot fingers!”
Yes, our body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius! Excess handling of seafood and shrimp can actually spoil it faster.
Saeujeon tastes sweet and succulent and has a chewy texture. When cooked, the shrimp look gorgeous!
Ingredients (serves 4)
16 jumbo size shrimp (or 1 pound shelled and heads off shrimp)
½ teaspoon ground white pepper (or black pepper)
¼ cup all purpose flour
cooking oil (grape seed, corn, or vegetable oil)
For mustard paste:
2 teaspoons Korean mustard powder (gyeoja-garu)
2 teaspoons cold water
For dipping sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
How to shell, clean, and butterfly cut shrimp:
Twist off the shrimp heads and peel off the shells with your hands. Save the heads for broth.
Leave the tails on but remove the sharp thing right top of the tail (telson) by pushing it up. Koreans call it a “shrimp water pouch” because that spot has always a little amount of water. Put the cleaned shrimp on the cutting board.
Remove the intestines of the shrimp by making a slit along the middle of each shrimp’s back. There will be a long dark line inside, pull it out by hand. Make a deeper cut to along the curve of the belly, but be sure not to cut all the way through. If you find any dark stuff near in there, remove it, too.
Score the shrimp on both sides so that it won’t shrink when cooked.
Rinse in cold water, drain, and pat dry with a paper towel.
Make dipping sauce:
Combine soy sauce, vinegar, chopped green onion, and sesame seeds in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Make mustard paste:
Mix the mustard powder with water in a small bowl.
Season the shrimp:
Put the shrimp on a large plate, belly side up and side by side without touching each other. Sprinkle 2 pinches of salt and ½ teaspoon ground white pepper over top, evenly.
Dip your finger into the mustard paste and put a bit on each shrimp, just like painting.
Coat the inside of the shrimp with flour
Beat 2 eggs with a pinch of salt in a bowl.
Pan fry the shrimp:
Heat up a pan over medium heat.
Add some cooking oil to the pan. Dip the shrimp into the egg and put the shrimp in the pan, coated part down. Repeat this with the rest of the shrimp but don’t crowd them in the pan.
Cook for a few minutes until the bottom of the shrimp turns a little light golden brown, pressing down slightly with a spatula every now and then. Turn them over and cook another couple of minutes until both sides are light golden brown.
Remove from the heat and serve as a side dish or snack with the dipping sauce.
What to do with the shrimp heads
Shrimp heads are full of flavor, and a broth made from them is a great substitute for water in any Korean stew (but especially doenjang-jjigae), or to substitute the water you use in the porridge for kimchi. It always turns out delicious.
Collect the shrimp heads and wash a couple of times.
Put them into a pot and submerge them in fresh water, enough to cover them completely with an inch left over.
Boil over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes until all the delicious stuff is infused into the water.
Strain (or squeeze) before using.