Asian-sensational PancakesColumns Ono, You Know
October 12, 2014
Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
You rise, they shine — “they,” as in pancakes, if there is any question about it. Now, we all know about my love affair with pancakes. Let me remind you about my epic MAC 24/7 pancake challenge experience. I mean, you have to love your hotcakes to even attempt to demolish four pounds of them in one sitting.
I have much respect for those who test the boundaries of pancakes because they’re certainly not only reserved for morning meals. Have you ever tried an Asian take on hotcakes? Therein lies oversized, pan-fried pancakes (served whole or cut into pieces) studded with the likes of green onion, kimchee and delicious morsels of seafood. It’s a beautiful and savory thing, and just one more reason why I’m proud to be Asian.
This week, I ventured to the following OYK eateries to get my hands on the quintessential Asian pancakes. Now you should, too. Your taste buds will thank you.
Indeed, it was time to succumb to my desire for Asian pancakes. Things were about to get real with Asian pancakes — Korean style. For more than two decades, Million Restaurant on Sheridan Street has garnered a growing fan base for its authentic Korean dishes, yakiniku selections and locally inspired Korean favorites.
Everything on the menu will have your taste buds flying high, but despite this fact, I’m always loyal to Kimchee Pancake ($15.95) and Seafood Green Onion Pancake ($15.95). Like pancakes on steroids, the batter is a mix of flour, egg and a few secret ingredients. Chefs will add a hefty serving of homemade kimchee or pieces of shrimp, squid and green onion, based on your preference, or you can opt for Kimchee Seafood Pancake ($17.95).
Million’s staff reveals that the pancake batter is pan-fried, then flipped until the perfect pancake is achieved.
So, just what exactly constitutes a perfect pancake? One that’s crisp on the edges yet moist and fluffy, and it’s as if the eclectic flavors jump out more and more with every bite.
Million’s pancakes are meant as a family-style starter, but order a variety of these savory cakes, pair them with soju or your favorite beer, and you’re set for one of the best meals of your life.
626 Sheridan St.
Little Village Noodle House
I craved that cozy comfort and distinctive flavor that only a home-cooked dish can bring. This, of course, led me to Little Village Noodle House, a charming Chinatown eatery that’s consistently good. Northern, Cantonese and Szechuan fare are its forte, and I can identify the tastes so vividly that my taste buds are watering at the thought.
So, where was I? Oh yes, Asian pancakes. Let’s pause for a moment because Little Village Noodle House takes the cake with its Green Onion Pancakes ($4.25, two round pieces). And the dough is everything. The chefs here know this and meticulously prepare the dough in-house, which owner David Chang says consists of a blend of flours, salt and a touch of garlic.
“There’s a special technique that we use when rolling out the dough, which creates layers in the pancakes. It’s simple,” he says. But I think it’s harder than it looks. Chopped green onions are folded into the dough, which is patted into round cakes, then pan-fried a toasty golden hue.
The verdict is complete hotcake hotness, as this appetizer reveals a doughy inside that’s soft and chewy, while retaining a crispy exterior. The green onions also add a pop of color and zestful flavor to the pancakes. Tell me what’s not to love?
Green Onion Pancakes are delicious as is, but if you must, go all out and dip these slices of heaven in Little Village’s homemade pot sticker sauce, which boasts notes of ginger and garlic.
Enough talk, now go stuff yourself with pancake goodness.
Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith St., Chinatown
Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.;
Friday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.