My mother never forced me to eat vegetables growing up; instead, she brought out the best flavor from each item by cooking it creatively and even playfully, so that I would develop a natural love for it. I remember when she used to cook beef livers in soy sauce and sugar when I was young, making me feel like I was eating dessert instead of animal organs! My favorite was when she stir-fried sliced green peppers and served them with dollops of mayonnaise. A green pepper can be a bit intimating for young children but the buttery and tangy mayonnaise made the bitter vegetable taste so darn good! I still eat the dish at home regularly.
While I admire the efforts by parents to make their children eat vegetables by “sneaking” them into their favorite dishes, I still think it is important for the youngsters to have the chance to experience the vegetables at their purest form. I don’t think it’s ever too early (as long as they can chew, of course) to introduce somewhat unusual but delicious and healthy vegetables like beets, celeriac, and parsnips to their regular diet and have them experience the flavors and textures exactly the way nature created them. And if that fails, and kids still refuse to appreciate the goodness of nature’s wonders, then blend the sh#% out of the veggies and deceive the heck out of them.
I think pajeon, a Korean scallion pancake (“pa” in “pajeon” means green onion, or scallion, and “jeon” refers to the ingredients in the batter), is a great way to introduce healthy vegetables into everyone’s diet, not just kids. We all love pancakes and the dipping sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar that accompany it makes this a very friendly snack, even if you are new to Korean and / or Asian cuisines! This was my first time making this dish at home although I’ve enjoyed it many times at restaurants, and I absolutely loved how it came out. The crunch and the sweetness of thinly julienned zucchini, carrots, and garlic chives (or nira in Japanese), coupled with the chewy texture of the batter makes this Korean favorite a go-to dish for a quick snack or lunch!
There are many ways to make pajeon (some put in seafood and kimchi … yummy) and I made mine based on recipes by TriFood.com and the New York Times. The Times version not be the most authentic but the result was very impressive. Pajeon is very similar to Japanese okonomiyaki but the former is heavy on green onions while the latter is filled with chopped cabbage, which provides a very different texture! I love them both equally.
P.S. Since we’re on the topic of green onions, please meet my new roommates – eggplant penguins and green onion birds that I picked up at a Hallmark store in Solvang over the Labor Day weekend. Aren’t they just adorable? You can purchase them online here if you are interested! And expand the below picture to see the funny nutrition facts!