One of the Korean dishes I really enjoy is Saeng Seon Jeon 생선전, or Fish Jeon which are egg-coated pan-fried fish fillets. The first time I had them were when I lived around Koreatown in Queens, New York. However, the most memorable saeng seon jeon I’ve had are from a home luncheon cooked by a Korean housewife in Malaysia some 7 years ago. Perhaps eating with ethnic Korean people made the experience more authentic, but that lunch defined my experience and expectation of what saeng seon jeon should taste like.
A lot of life happened in between then and now, and though I am familiar with many things Korean, I am no longer part of that inner Korean community. I did inherit insights into cooking Korean food, and for that I am dining happier. It wasn’t until I saw some SSJ at Hmart that I remembered really enjoying them at that luncheon. I remember asking for the recipe then, but never got around to making it until fairly recently.
This came about because I wanted to make some fried fish without making them scratchy, too crispy, crunchy, or oily so that my baby can enjoy them safely. Moreover, I wanted something fast and easy to prepare, and tastes amazing. These pan-fried fish fillets were the answer to a busy mom’s prayer! They’re great for the whole family, including kids, and babies who are eating finger foods.
Dining Happy Tip
This is a fairly quick and easy recipe. The devil is in the quality of the fish, the eggwash, and perfect heat control.
White, fleshy fish fillets that flake in layers (like cod) work best. You can absolutely use other types of white fish, but the taste, texture, and flavor will be different. Cut the fish into fillets about 1/2″ thick on a 45º angle against the grain for beautiful chunky flakes. The fresher the fish, the sweeter the taste, but frozen cod works as long as it was frozen at peak condition, isn’t too old, and isn’t frostbitten. Using a nonstick pan will yield the best result.
Some people like their saeng seon jeon neat (me and probably most people), others like them lacey around the edges. To make them neat, dip and drip the excess eggs after lightly dredging the fish fillets with flour. To make them lacey, dip the fish fillets in the eggwash for a longer time, and quickly transfer the drippy fish fillets into the frying pan so that the eggwash can bleed out to form lacey edges. I personally like the more refined version, but the reason some people like them lacey is because there’s more fried egg bits to enjoy!
Once you get the hang of the Korean flour-dredging and egg-washing jeon technique, you can do this with pretty much anything that pairs well with egg and fries flat like zucchini discs, and meat patties.
Let’s make some saeng seon jeon!!!
- 1 lb pacific cod fish or flaky white fish sliced into 1/2" thick, 2" x 3" pieces
- 1/2 cup all-purpose or plain flour for dredging
- 2 medium eggs beaten
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
- Rinse your cod fish fillet whole then pat dry. Slice the fish against the grain, into 1/2" thick 2" x 3" pieces.
- Spread the flour onto a small plate.
- Beat two eggs in a small bowl. Add the salt and pepper into the beaten egg mixture, and mix thoroughly.
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil on a non-stick skillet on medium heat.
- Dredge the fish fillets individually with the flour, and shake off any excess. Then dip it into the beaten egg wash mixture, drip, and place the fillets gently onto the hot skillet.
- Fry the fish pieces for about 2 minutes each side on medium low heat (total of 4 minutes, or until they are cooked to a beautiful golden brown).
- Repeat the same step with all the fish fillets, until all of them are cooked.
- Serve with hot rice.