Being married to a Chinese lady means I have frequent adventures in Asian cuisine. Along with the cuisine comes the adventures of accompanying Winnie on her shopping trips to local Asian grocery stores. I enjoy visiting these stores for a chance to explore the amazing things Asian people consider edible.
Winnie had recently heard about a “HMart,” a chain of Korean-owned grocery stores, that had opened locally and she wanted to check it out. So we made the HMart part of our weekly food shopping excursion.
The store proved to be very clean and offered a wide variety of both normal American foods as well as esoteric Asian delicacies. I happened to be browsing in the baking goods isle when I spotted a box labeled “Sweet Pumpkin Korean Pancake Mix.” This intrigued me because:
- I didn’t know pumpkins were grown in Korea.
- I didn’t know pumpkins could be turned into pancake mix.
Other than the title and description, the directions on the box was in Korean and therefore unintelligible to this American. But it was obviously a Korean version of Duncan Hines ready-mix pancake batter. I thought to myself “self, how hard can this be? Add some water, throw in an egg, and we have pancakes.” I showed the box to Winnie and after a brief negotiation, promising I would be the one to cook, tossed the Sweet Pumpkin Korean Pancake Mix into our shopping cart.
My cooking skills are somewhat limited, but things like pancakes are normally well within my range of abilities. Saturday evening I pulled the box out of the cupboard and opened it up for research purposes. I expected to find one large pouch of powder mix. Instead, I found two different-sized pouches plus a small packet labeled “Yeast.” After a moment’s panic of thinking I might be in over my head, I spotted English instructions on the two pouches.
A careful study led to my understanding that Sweet Pumpkin Korean Pancakes are in fact fried yeast pancakes with a sugary filling. I determined that one pouch was the pancake mix, the other smaller pouch was the sweet filling. More complicated than I first expected but still, these were only pancakes. I told Winnie I’d make them for the next morning’s breakfast.
Bright and early Sunday morning I was in the kitchen. After a cup of tea I started my Korean pumpkin pancake-making adventure. First up; the directions called for mixing 280ml of lukewarm water with the larger pouch of pancake mix. However my measuring cup, thankfully with dual metric/normal measurement markings, only went up to 250ml. So I made an educated guess at the extra 30ml water, then thoroughly mixed the batter with yeast as per the somewhat shaky English-language instructions. Knowing that yeast bread requires time to rise, I covered the bowl of mix with a towel and waited.
One hour later I checked my mix and saw it had in fact risen. By now Winnie was up and in the kitchen, appearing highly skeptical of this whole project. I proudly showed her my mix and announced we would be having Korean pumpkin pancakes very soon.
The next step in the instructions were to roll the dough into “8 – 10 balls,” then stuff each of the balls with the sweet filling mix, a dry powder, from the second pouch and fry them in oil. I prepped the counter-top and dipped my hand into the dough, pulling up a soft sticky mess that was completely impervious against being rolled into pancake balls. After a few minutes of watching me, Winnie announced “I’ll do that!”
She pulled out some wheat flour, kneaded a little in with the pancake mix and was somehow able to start forming dough balls. She kneaded and worked the dough a bit more and made ten balls of dough. Then she punched a hole in each one, put in some of the filling, closed up the hole and sort of flattened the balls into the semblance of a thick pancake.
By the time she was done I had our griddle heated up. I fried the dough under Winnie’s close supervision. Within a few minutes we had a plateful of nicely browned Sweet Pumpkin Korean Pancakes ready to eat.
They were actually quite good. The powder filling had turned liquidity and the pancakes themselves were nice and chewy. I think Winnie enjoyed them even though she complained about being “too sweet.” But this is one adventure we might not repeat.
I think pumpkins are better used in Jack-o-Lanterns and pies, not pancakes.