International Breakfasts, Part1: Korean-Inspired Savory Pancakes with Tamari Dipping Sauce

Cut and shredded vegetables in bowls

One of my kids’ favorite things to watch these days is a series on Youtube called “American Kids Try Food from Around the World.” The first episode is about breakfast, and my boys howl with laugher when they see the kids’ reactions to things like Korean fermented soybean soup. Yet at the same time, they have become curious to taste-test some of these foods themselves.

Americans are often raised with a very narrow view of breakfast, which can lead to a rut of relying on overly sweet things like boxed cereal or pancakes with maple syrup in the mornings. In other countries, such as Korea, traditional breakfasts are much more similar to lunch or dinner, and often involve things like vegetables, soup, and seafood. One of the great things about this approach is that it opens up so many more options for eating a balanced meal at breakfast that isn’t too sweet. 

One of the top strategies that we talk about in Sugarproof is making sure that kids have protein and fiber in the morning to avoid spikes and dips in blood sugar. This translates to kids that are more calm, less irritable, and better able to concentrate. I’m also a much calmer and more patient mom if I eat a Sugarproof style breakfast, and I’m finding this is even more important now that we are on lockdown in a small house.

Do you feel like your kids are stuck in a sugary breakfast rut? The book gives many different tips for upgrading breakfast. We also challenge families to step out of the breakfast box by looking up savory breakfast options from other countries, trying out a new recipe, and seeing what they think. Kids who are old enough to pick can choose what they most want to try, which increases their willingness to participate. We are going to do a series of blogs on this topic, proposing different ideas from around the world.

At the moment, we are on a kick with making savory pancakes and came up with this recipe that is inspired by Korean pajeon. Pajeon (or Pa Jun) are pancakes made with scallions (spring onions) that are served with a soy dipping sauce. Other versions of these pancakes include different vegetables or meat or seafood.

Our Korean-inspired veggie pancake recipe has a high ratio of egg to flour for added protein and is flexible in that you can use any vegetables your kids like, and if needed, each family member can customize their own. With ½ cup of veggies per pancake, it’s also a good way to get in a serving of vegetables in the morning. I also like to add fresh ginger to the pancakes, even if it’s not traditional, as I love the bright flavor and it helps me wake up.

Like most of our recipes in Sugarproof, this recipe is versatile and can be used interchangeably between meals, so if your kids get hooked on these pancakes, you can send them for a packed lunch, or make them for dinner, using any leftovers the next day at breakfast. To add to the fun, serve them sliced and give you kids a chance to practice their chopstick skills. If you don’t have time to make the dipping sauce or your kids prefer more simple flavors, just use plain tamari or soy sauce.

If you try these or another internationally inspired breakfasts at home or at a restaurant, we would love to hear how it goes. Or maybe you already have your own favorite savory breakfasts that don’t fall into the stereotypical idea of a morning food and would be willing to inspire us with them. We would love to see pictures and videos – please post them in the comments here or on Instagram or Facebook and tag us @Sugarproofkids

Korean-Inspired Vegetable Pancakes (makes 4 pancakes, each 8” in diameter)

INGREDIENTS:

  • ¾ cup rice flour (or all-purpose flour — can use half whole wheat)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • Oil of choice for greasing the pan (we like coconut)
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, optional (1-2 teaspoons per pancake)
  • 2 cup vegetables total (1/2 cup per pancake), such as green onions (scallions) and/or thinly sliced or grated vegetables of choice, like sliced mushrooms or red peppers or grated carrot or zucchini. For a look similar to a Korean pajeon, keep the scallions whole or slice them into large pieces, or else you can also just thinly slice the bulb.

METHOD:

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, water, and salt. Add in the eggs and whisk until combined.  If you want, you can mix the vegetables directly into the batter, or you can customize each pancake with different vegetables according to what each person likes following the steps below.

Make one pancake at a time:

  • In a medium-sized frying pan, heat 1-2 teaspoons of oil on medium high heat. (If using a non-stick pan, you can use less oil.)
  • If using ginger, add 1-2 teaspoons of it and cook for a minute, until fragrant 
  • If you did not add the vegetables to the batter, add ½ cup of sliced vegetables of choice and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, redistribute the vegetables evenly in the pan in a single layer.
  • Give the batter another stir and add between 1/3 cup and ½ cup to the pan.
  • Tilt the pan to allow the batter to reach all of the edges and create a circle.
  • Turn down heat to medium and cook on the first side for 3-4 minutes until it looks set and the edges are beginning to brown.
  • Gently flip the pancake and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
  • Transfer the pancake to a plate or cutting board, slice into wedges, and serve with the tamari dipping sauce, recipe below.

Continue cooking the other 3 pancakes one by one, adding 1-2 teaspoons of oil to the pan, then 1-2 teaspoons ginger, ½ cup veggies, and 1/3 to ½ cup batter each time.

NUTRITION FACTS PER SERVING (1 pancake): Calories 230 Total Fat 10g Protein 9g Total Carbohydrate 25g Dietary Fiber 3g Total Sugars 2g Added Sugars 0g

Tamari Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil, optional
  • 1 clove minced/pressed garlic, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), optional

Method:

In a small bowl, stir together the tamari, rice vinegar, and water. Add in any of the other optional ingredients, as desired.

NUTRITION FACTS PER SERVING (1 tablespoon): Calories 15 Total Fat 0.5g Protein 1g Total Carbohydrate 1g Dietary Fiber 0g Total Sugars 0g Added Sugars 0g