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Wanja Jeon: Korean Keto Meat Patties

Wanja Jeon: Korean Keto Meat Patties

Wait, you might ask, didn’t you just do a jeon recipe?

No, that was different. That was dubu jeon – a tofu pancake. This is wanja jeon – a meat pattie.

Wait, you might ask again, just how many jeons are there?

Good question. A lot.

A jeon, in Korean cuisine, is essentially a whole separate sub-set of dishes. Anything that is coated in flour and eggs before frying is a jeon. 

It can be in one piece or minced, it can be fish, meat, or veggies. If it has a flour-and-egg-mixture coating – it’s some kind of jeon. And yes, they all have their own names.

Seriously. Jeon has its own Wikipedia page, that’s how extensive the list of what a jeon can be made of is.

Wanja jeon is among the most popular varieties I’ve come across on YouTube. (And yes, I’m still set on going through my Korean cooking vlog-inspired list). Not as popular as dubu jeon, but still a pretty oft-enjoyed meal. From what YouTube subtitles have told me, it’s traditionally a treat for special occasions and celebrations like Chusok. Nowadays though, it has become a popular everyday meal. Pretty understandable, considering meat is not as exclusive an ingredient as it used to be.

So what are the usual ingredients for Wanja Jeon?

Again, as it usually goes with traditional dishes – there are a few ingredients that repeat in most of the recipes, but there’s no universal one.

Obviously ground meat (usually beef, but an even mix of beef and pork seems to be more popular these days) and mashed firm tofu are what every single recipe out there calls for. They’re the unskippable base.

Other than that, everyone seems to go with their own flow: some people add only a few ingredients, others prefer their patties pretty loaded.

The ingredients that I came across most often while reading through wanja jeon recipes are green onions, white onions, sesame oil, garlic (not always), and chives (not always).

Sometimes finely chopped carrots, mirin (a type of Japanese rice wine), and soy sauce are also added – though these are usually the recipes that call for a lot of ingredients for loaded patties.

I’ve already mentioned that I do not usually like loaded food – it tends to overwhelm my palette. So the wanja jeon recipe I decided to go with is pretty simple: 

  1. While green onions are the more common choice for wanja jeon, I decided to roll with chives, since I generally prefer them and already had some. I think substituting is fine in this case but, for a more traditional feel, you can go with green onions.
  2. Other than that, I added sesame oil and mashed garlic. That’s it.
  3. I decided to skip the onion, since I generally do not use it in my cooking (a bit too high in carbs for my comfort), but I did include an option for this recipe, since it’s such a popular ingredient when it comes to wanja jeon. I can attest to the patties turning out just fine without them, but it’s your playground 😉

All in all, wanja jeon is a pretty quick and straightforward recipe. The most troublesome part is draining any excess liquid from the tofu. Seriously, do not take this step lightly. Excess liquid will be the #1 reason your patties turn out wrong.

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