Korean+Japanese Recipe: Carrot Shrimp Jeon Bites & Homemade Eel Sauce

by Ellie Betzen | from scratch, mostly in ,

carrot jeon triangles with eel sauce-korean and japanese bento style

When I was in elementary school one of my biggest shames was being Korean, or Asian in general, for that matter.  I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday.  That day in 3rd grade when I blatantly asked my mom to stop packing my school lunch, all because I was so tired of having to hide my food that had this distinct "sour smell".  I really tried to hide it too!  But unfortunately, I just could not stop the smell from permeating through the tupperware and onto my school supplies, causing all the kids to scowl in disgust.  Yep, it was good ol' Korean packed lunches to blame for.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who experienced that growing up!  

I really don't mean this to sound like a poor-me post, but it's really not fun to hear remarks like "ewww that red cabbage stinks! (good ol' kimchi)"  at any age, especially if you're the smallest student in your entire 3rd grade and you're straggling behind the big kids, when you could definitely use a boost of self esteem!  Talk about mustering up confidence, right?  Haha, well...thankfully that scenario hasn't been an issue for many years now, and as I mentioned before, I couldn't be any more proud to have my Korean roots still alive and well.  Thank goodness too, because I don't know if I could ever survive without some scrumptious, albeit strong smelling Korean cuisine...but then strangely enough, I don't think I can go without Japanese food either.  Both are equally good.  Both are somewhat complimentary while being on complete opposite sides of the spice spectrum.  Koreans love explosive must-torture-myself flavors, while Japanese folks prefer that subtle and delicate taste in their dishes.  And that's how this cute little bento wannabe recipe came about!  Aside from craving both styles of cuisine, there wasn't any particular reason as to why I chose to create this Korean-Japanese inspired recipe; I guess I simply wanted to play with my food (kids, don't try this at home) and taste the best of both worlds.  :)  The carrot patties/Jeon remind me of a snack my mom used to make me as a kid, and what better way to re-live good childhood memories? 

What I love about these cute little bites is the slight crunch on the exterior of the carrot patties, and soft texture from the other ingredients.  If you've ever tried eel sauce then you probably share my love for its sweet, smoky, and slightly "fishy" flavor without the wangy taste.  Trust me!  Eel sauce isn't as scary as the name suggests.

carrot jeon triangles with eel sauce-korean and japanese bento style | Fit for the Soul

For the cute triangle shapes I used little molds (about 2.5 in. long on each side) for bento boxes, which you can easily get at places like Daiso, Mitsuwa, Marukai.  I'm not sure how accessible Japanese markets are in your area, but to my knowledge Daiso (a Japanese $1 store) has been popping up left and right here in Southern California.  You can probably just as easily order these online, though.  Even though these carrot and rice triangles look tedious to make, they are actually extremely easy to put together.  The best way to go about it is to grate the carrots ahead of time and keep them in the fridge.  And the rice?  Assuming you have a rice cooker, you will have the work done way ahead of time, so the hardest part is probably grating the carrots and making them into carrot jeon (전).  Now onto the recipe!

carrot jeon triangles with eel sauce-korean and japanese bento style | Fit for the Soul

Carrot Shrimp Jeon  Bites with Homemade Eel Sauce

Makes 8 triangles

Ingredients for rice

  • 1 C uncooked brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 C water

Ingredients for carrot patties/Jeon

  • 1 C finely grated carrots (not like pulp)
  • 1/2 C diced shrimp (raw or cooked)
  • 2 TBSP flour dissolved in 3 TBSP water
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • oil spray for cooking

Ingredients for eggs

  • 2 eggs
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • oil spray for cooking
  • seaweed paper (unsalted, and optional)
  • sesame seeds (optional)

Ingredients for eel sauce // adapted from Nami's recipe

  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP white cooking wine
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP flour dissolved in 3 TBSP water
  • 1/8 tsp Hondashi


First cook brown rice in a rice cooker if possible.  If you don't have a cooker then cook in a pot over medium meat, stirring often.  Set aside but it's okay to use even if it's still warm.  Spray a large skillet with oil and heat up over medium heat.  Grab a medium bowl and thoroughly mix all the carrot ingredients.  Use the triangular bento mold (or cookie cutter of choice) to fill with carrots about 1/3 of the way up, leaving enough for 8 patties total.  Carefully place triangle on skillet with a spatula, and cook about 2 minutes on each side.  Set to cool.

Oil the skillet again.  Scramble all the egg ingredients in a bowl and fill whole skillet with the mixture so the egg is thin.  Cook about 1 minute on each side over low medium heat.  Transfer to flat surface and use mold to cut 8 pieces and set aside.

Fill the bento mold with rice about 1/2 way up and then place on a plate.  Layer with carrot patties and egg.  For the eel (unagi) sauce, simply simmer in a small pot on low heat for about 3 minutes, while stirring a few times.  You can double or quadruple for future use!  The Hondashi is optional but it definitely gives the mixture a more authentic eel flavor.  Lastly, drizzle sauce on top of the stack and garnish with seaweed and sesame seeds!

korean japanese recipe eggs
bento brown rice triangles

Have you tried bento/doshirak in Korean/Asian picnic food before?  What did you think of them?  Don't worry, I won't judge. ;)

Favorite Asian cuisine?

Selah's First Birthday Party {A Mostly DIY Dohljanchi}

by Ellie Betzen | from scratch, mostly in

They say that things rarely go as planned, and I think that especially applies if you are talking about a 1 year old baby and her birthday.

On Sunday we had Selah's 1st birthday party (Dohl in Korean) and although it was a really fun and blessed time with our own family as well as our church family, it was also pretty hectic!  Since we had Father's Day going on as well, Selah had just about had enough of the festivities and cried towards the end of the event.  For the most part, though, I feel like it was a success because it never seems to be easy for baby anyway (at least not in a Dohl)!  And as long as we got to share this special occasion with everyone we love while getting some pictures along the way, I would say it was a success.

I know that I personally wish I had some pictures from my own 1st birthday, so I'm rather certain Selah will appreciate it someday when she is older.  ;) 

What Baby Wears for Dohl 

Here Selah is wearing an old Korean attire called hanbok, and it is tradition to wear it whenever there is a special taking place.  You might have already seen such types of weddings...but usually the mother of the bride honors their Korean roots and the bride's special day by donning on this dress.  Initially I wasn't going to go this route for Selah's birthday, but when I realized that my parents really wanted to see her in it,  I was wooed by the thought of how adorable she would look.  I guess I wanted to go big or go home, hah!  And I also wanted to make this day extra special for my parents.


The Significance of Dohljabi

What you see above is called a Dohljabi (doh-jah-bee), and it is a tradition that has been around for a looooong time!  Don't ask me how long though, because I don't know the details. ;)  It originally used to be a fortune telling ritual in which the baby would have to reach for one of the items laid in front of him or her.  Whatever the baby grabs or touches first is what she will become (ex: stethoscope=doctor).  Thankfully that superstitious significance has no meaning for most of us in this generation, and nowadays we just do it for the laughs.  I mean, imagine how cute it is to watch a baby grab her favorite item and everyone roaring up in laughter! 

Unfortunately Selah was too exhausted and got overwhelmed by peer pressure, haha.  But she definitely did touch the wooden spoon which wasn't much of a surprise to me since she loves to eat--just like her momma. ;)

And here's a special shoutout to my dearest Susan--thank you tonnnnssss for helping me set everything up!  Seriously could not have done it without you.

First Haircut and Daddy's DIY Gift

On Saturday Selah had her first haircut at Pia Hair Salon in Torrance.  They did an amazing job and thankfully Selah was as cool as a cucumber.  Phew!  My tip is to get the sweetest stylist you can find because babies sense the benevolence of a person.  I also took her favorite snacks to keep her busy so she wouldn't turn her head so abruptly. 


Selah's first DIY project! 


How do you envision your little one's party?  Or how did you choose to celebrate?

What are some traditions that are unique to your culture, or even your family?