What is wanja jeon?
On traditional holidays such as Chuseok (Autumn Festival) and Seollal (New Year’s Day), most Korean homes prepare various types of jeon (전) dishes (fried battered foods) for their holiday feast. Wanja-jeon (완자전) is one of the popular choices. It is also called gogi-jeon (고기전).
Meatballs are called gogi wanja (고기완자) in Korean and are used in many traditional dishes such as soups or hot pots. When battered and fried with eggs, they are called wanja-jeon. To make jeon, the meatballs are gently pressed into mini patties.
As a kid growing up in Korea, I loved these little meatballs with eggs. We called them by their funny nickname – dong-geu-rang-ddeng (동그랑떙), which means “a round thing”. I know it’s hard to pronounce, but it’s one of those words that makes you smile when you say or hear them. They were a favorite to pack in the school lunch boxes. Meat was a luxury in Korea back then, so having a few of these meatballs with a meal was always a special treat.
Enjoy it on your festive table or simply as an appetizer or side dish to a Korean meal. They are also delicious plain with a bowl of rice and kimchi.
- ground beef and pork or use all beef or all pork
- chopped garlic
- sesame oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil for frying
Mushrooms are also great in these meat patties.
To get a smooth texture, take extra time to chop the vegetables and mix all the ingredients really well by hand. You can use a mini chopper if available.
Make meatballs about 1 inch by rolling the meat mixture between your palms. Then press gently to flatten it. When ready to bake, dredge in the flour and dip it in the egg wash before adding it to the preheated pan to bake in the pan.
The meat patties can be prepared ahead of time and baked on the day of serving.
The meat mixture in this recipe can also be used to make types of stuffed jeon, such as kkaennip jeon. You can also stuff other vegetables like chili peppers, zucchini and mushrooms.