Maybe it’s something to be ashamed of, and maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but I am really not a fan of kale. I know that it’s apparently a very healthy thing to eat (people give it credit for everything from lowering cancer risk to making your hair shiny!), but healthiness alone will likely never convince me to eat anything. (More on this when we reach brussels sprouts season….) An internet recipe search implies to me that the most popular ways to eat kale are: blended up in some kind of green smoothie, braised or roasted in the manner of these collard greens, or baked as chips. I was not thrilled about these choices, so when I stumbled on Smitten Kitchen’s Japanese Vegetable Pancakes, I felt this was the perfect solution to my “kale problem.”
I am a huge fan of Asian food. When I lived in China for 2 years, we would buy scallion pancakes from the local market. They were mostly egg and flour with a bit of chopped green onion, then fried until delicious. I’ve also enjoyed vegetable pancakes at Korean restaurants both in China, and here in the U.S. I’ve never tried a Japanese version, but if these pancakes are any indication, I’m guessing they are essentially the same.
By keeping the egg-and-flour to veggie ratio small, the vegetables are highlighted and taste crispy and fresh. Much like when I attempt to make actual breakfast pancakes, the first couple of cakes turned out a bit oily, but the remainder of the veggie pancakes were perfectly browned and a perfect balance of crunchy on the edges and softer in the middle. The version that I made uses less flour and egg than the original; I thought this would help them to go over better in my household since my husband is not as big of a fan of the Korean pancakes.
I made about 8 pancakes, and we ate them with Sriracha sauce. They were supposed to be eaten alongside our potstickers for dinner, but as the little guy opted for no afternoon nap (Why?!? He was clearly exhausted!), they ended up being made and eaten more around 9pm.
For me, this is an ideal way to eat kale. I could still taste it, but its flavor was balanced out by some other vegetables, and the chewiness was offset by the crunchy cabbage. Plus, these pancakes used two of my weekly share ingredients – scallions and kale. I did attempt to make kale chips later in the week; however, my recipe said to bake them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. I decided to check them at 14 minutes 49 seconds. Some smoke drifted out when I opened the oven; they had turned a grey charcoal color. I’m guessing 15 minutes was about 8 minutes too long. I’m planning another attempt with this week’s kale… . If I don’t just make vegetable pancakes all week long.
Asian Veggie Pancakes
Only slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Japanese Vegetable Pancakes
The best thing about these pancakes is that you really could adapt them to include whatever veggies you like or have on hand. You can also play with the ratio of veggies to batter to find what suits your taste. Smitten Kitchen includes a Japanese sauce recipe; I didn’t try it (due to the fact that we were already eating these way past dinner time…), and Sriracha sauce suited me just fine!
Makes 8-10 small pancakes
1/3 head of cabbage, thinly shredded or chopped
2 medium carrots, shredded using a vegetable peeler
4 kale leaves, ribs removed, leaves cut in thin ribbons
1 or 2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup (I used slightly less) flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Oil for frying (I used canola; you could also use peanut oil)
Toss chopped veggies in a large bowl. Dust with flour, then toss again until all veggies are well coated. Add eggs to veggie mixture and stir well. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When oil is heated, spoon about 1/4 cup of veggie mixture onto the pan. Flatten slightly with a spatula. When the edges begin to brown and the bottoms are golden (about 3 minutes), flip the pancakes. Flatten again and cook until the other side is also nicely browned (about 2-3 more minutes; you can check them).
Keep them warm in the oven – or, like us, just eat them as they get done.