Putting a Midwestern spin on traditional Korean dishes

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Ji Hye Kim describes the culture shock of moving from Korea to New Jersey when she was a teenager. Photo courtesy of Ji Hye Kim.

This weekend, many Koreans will celebrate the harvest festival Chuseok, which runs from September 9 -12 this year. In South Korea, many people return to their ancestral homes to spend the three-day holiday with their families.

Ji Hye Kim owns the popular restaurant Miss Kim in Ann Arbor. There, she serves Korean food modified with Midwestern ingredients. Named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2021, she discusses putting a Michigan spin on the Korean holiday.


Jeon is a catch-all word for savory pancakes.  Some are battered with a flour and water mixture and some are dusted with the dry batter, then dipped into whisked eggs.  It is almost always savory rather than sweet, and it is the mainstay at holidays, birthdays and other festivities.  It is also a perfect way to use up vegetables in season, especially if you have an abundance of zucchini during the summer.  Here’s the basic batter recipe, whether used dry or wet.  

Jeon, a versatile, savory fritter, can be made with leafy, green and root vegetables. Photo courtesy of Ji Hye Kim.


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup rice flour (or substitute corn starch or potato starch / do not use mochiko or sweet rice flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup master jeon batter
  • 3 ea large eggs
  • ½ tsp saewoojut (Korean salted fermented baby shrimp / can substitute with fish sauce or soy sauce)
  • 1 TBS finely chopped scallions
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pints zucchini or squash, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
  • 2 TBS neutral cooking oil like canola


  1. Put the master jeon batter onto a plate or a cookie sheet.
  2. Mix the eggs, saewoojut, scallions and black pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combined.
  3. Dip the sliced zucchini into the master jeon batter to cover, then dust off any access batter with a brush.  
  4. Dip the dusted zucchini into the egg mix.
  5. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat and add oil.  When the pan is hot, place the egg mix dipped zucchini onto the oiled and heated pan.  You should hear subtle sizzle.
  6. When the edges of the egg mix are set, turn the zucchini.  Cook until golden brown on both sides.
  7. Place the zucchini/squash jeon onto a cooling rack or a cookie sheet covered with paper towels to drain some excess cooking oil.
  8. Serve when still hot and enjoy!  

Chive and Hot Pepper Pancake with Squid


  • ½ cup jeon batter
  • ½ cup cold water 
  • 1 cup garlic chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ⅓ cup narragansett squid or calamari
  • 1 ea medium hot peppers like Lady Choi, Jimmy Nardellos, fresno or jalapeno peppers, sliced thin
  • 2 TBS neutral cooking oil like canola


  1. Place the garlic chives, squid and hot peppers in a mixing bowl. 
  2. Add the master jeon batter and cold water to the mixing bowl with vegetables.  Mix everything gently with your hand.  Do not over work the batter into the vegetables.  It should look like the vegetables are barely held together with the batter.  Having air pocket space, rather than one big sticky lump is important.
  3. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Add oil. 
  4. When the pan is hot, add vegetables covered in batter into the pan, making sure the vegetables are laid down haphazardly with holes and spaces, rather than one smoothe batter.  Air holes are great as they will create more crispy pieces and will provide space for the excess oil to drain.
  5. When the edges are golden brown, flip the pancake gently and slowly using a spatula.
  6. When both sides are golden brown and there is no wetness to the batter, the pancake is done.
  7. Move it onto the cookie rack or a pan lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.
  8. When cooled enough to handle, slice and serve warm!