Our 5 Go-To Seafood Scallion Pancake Spots
The world of jeon [전] is a diverse and beautiful one. There are small ones and big ones, round ones and square ones, ones with vegetables, ones with seafood, ones with meat. Like every other Korean dish they’re extremely regional, so to list jeon matjibs would just be stupid – different places specialize in different ones And they can be completely different.
This week, we’re looking at spots that make one kind incredibly: haemul pajeon [해물파전]. This seafood scallion pancake is standard at old school drinking spots, and pretty much the perfect accompaniment to a kettle of makgeolli [막걸리] and a rainy day. But just because haemul pajeon is a classic doesn’t mean it’s easy to make – in a landscape of overly eggy, undercooked, frozen seafood pancakes, these five spots make haemul pajeon perfectly.
1. Hanjane Chuok – Anamdong
한잔의 추억 – 안암동
While known best for Korea University and these 4 matjibs we wrote about last month, Anam has another claim to fame – it’s famous for makgeolli and jeon. HanChu is basically the platonic ideal of an old school Korean drinking spot, and while their whole menu is off the chain, their haemul pajeon is on another level. Fresh clams, squid, and mussels are folded into a thin batter with fresh scallions and sliced chili peppers, then fried up thin and crispy. Served, of course, with the customary sauce that they somehow do better than others: chunks of onion and peppers in a sweet, vinegar-y soy sauce mixture.
2. Chakhan Nakji – Mokdong
착한낙지 – 목동
Chakhan Nakji’s name means “the kind octopus,” which is fucking cute but also should suggest that they specialize in octopus. Just generally, if you like fresh octopus this is a great spot, but their haemul pajeon is particularly notable. While some hpj’s (I’m so sorry, let’s not make that a thing) focus on the scallions, or the batter, or even other types of seafood, Chakhan Nakji’s is basically an octopus dish itself. It arrives topped with a ton of plump, curled up octopus legs, which are fried into the batter along with all the chopped seafood inside. As good as the octopus makes this jeon, the scallions and batter are on point, and it’s perfectly crispy with a little chewiness in the middle.
3. Mak – Samsungdong
막 – 삼성동
In addition to having a dope name and a small, minimalist interior to match, Mak specializes in Chungdam [청담] food, which means their makguksu [막국수], mandu [만두], and yes, haemul pajeon are all done in Chungdam style. If you’ve been out to the country, you’ll recognize what makes a jeon a Chungdam (or for that matter, any other area in the region) one – instead of batter being mixed together, the scallions are laid flat in perfect rows, topped with seafood and whatever else, and then batter is poured over. Sure, the result is pretty beautiful, but Mak’s also tastes fantastic. The scallions are left longer and still have a sharp oniony bite, and the batter is a little eggy, both crispy and fluffy.
4. Mapo Naru – Mapo
마포나루 – 마포
Unlike Mak, Mapo Naru’s haemul pajeon is a mess to look it. Not that it matters, because also unlike Mak, Mapo Naru’s been making haemul pajeon for 20 years plus, so what you may think of it aesthetically is irrelevant. On the inside, huge pieces of squid, whole tale-on shrimp, and I’m pretty sure – don’t quote me on this – but I’m pretty sure I’ve found scallops in there too. Fresh scallions mix with red chili peppers and green cabbage to round out the batter, which itself is not a major part of the dish, but kind of serves to hold everything together. This is a top pick for anyone looking for a real old school, chunky haemul pajeon.
5. Haksa Pajeon – Hwegi
학사파전 – 회기
Like Anam, Hwegi is known for pajeon, and there’s really no shortage of places to grab a good one. But, because of that, the several famous spots compete with each other, so in order to choose you pretty much just have to find the deal you like the best. Haksa has four set menus, all of which include a haemul pajeon, and then additional stews, stir fries, and corn (they all include corn). Each one comes with four things, and they range from 19,000 to 28,000. Or, you could just get the haemul pajeon on its own, which is 7k. This place is cheap, really lowkey, and like HanChu, if you’re eating here you really need to get a bottle of makgeolli.
If you tried any of these pajeon on a rainy day, or a not rainy day, let us know how we did with the list. For more of our picks, hit our pick 5 section; last week we rounded up chicken skewers.
Photo credits: @h__dorable, @_sy_98kimm, @a_ramggg, @iim_sso, @mozziringo, @marketsqkr