The glories of pan-fried jeon await in Koreatown

A platter filled with fritters and pancakes
Modeum jeon (Korean seafood, meat and vegetable pancake combination) at HanEuem in Koreatown.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Jeon (sometimes also transliterated as jun or chun) are often described in English as “savory Korean pancakes,” though that doesn’t quite capture the breadth of possibilities in these battered, pan-fried snacks.

Yes, they can be round griddle cakes — palm-size and laced with mild flaked pollock, perhaps, or nearly as big as a hubcap, as in the thick, sizzling-crisp spheres called pajeon that are visibly brimming with seafood and scallions. They can also be elaborate stacks of crab sticks, trimmed scallion and a dense mulch of minced mushroom held together by skewers before frying, or halved chilies mounded with a gently spiced mix of finely ground meat and tofu.

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Modeum jeon is a combination platter featuring an array of meat, vegetables and seafood jeon; often it’s served at holidays or milestone birthday gatherings. It’s not as common to see it on restaurant menus, which is one reason I enjoyed them so much at HanEuem in Koreatown, the subject of this week’s review. Wonsuk “John” Kang, whose restaurants also include Chef Kang Sul Box and Chef Kang Korean Taco, puts forth a broad menu of tradition-minded dishes at HanEuem — soothing (and sometimes spicy) hot pots and stews, soups, pork belly and oyster stir-fry, and foods that go well with beer or soju, including several varieties of pancake.

Koreatown is as profound a culinary biome as ever. If a meal at HanEuem makes you hungry for more, Jenn Harris and I rounded up some favorites for takeout in the area last year, and in 2018 Jenn, Amy Scattergood and the late Jonathan Gold compiled a detailed guide for diving into its riches.

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A chef arranges food in bento boxes.
Hayato, run by Brandon Go, received a second Michelin star this week.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)