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Chinese Five-Spice Zucchini & Corn Pancakes

Chinese Five-Spice Zucchini & Corn Pancakes

Some of my recipes come from having too many of a thing in the fridge. This time, it was too many zucchinis and too many corn cobs. I know, my problems are varied and complex - how do I do it?!

Luckily for me, I was scrolling through Instagram and found a great recipe featured on Woks of Life, one of my favorite food blogs. Aside from their gorgeous pictures, I love their story - it’s a blog maintained by four bloggers with a mission to preserve and document their heritage. As a lover of Chinese and all sorts of Asian cuisine, they’ve quickly become one of my go-to sites for authentic and flavorful recipes. Recently, they featured a super easy zucchini pancake recipe and got me out of my zucchini surplus. I made a few modifications and additions, most importantly some charred corn, and we had a super easy brunch.

The Chinese five-spice powder makes this recipe distinctive. It’s a mix of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, and sichuan peppercorns. Like many other spice mixes (garam masala, ras el-hanout, baharat), it’s an amazing balance of sweet and earthy. The predominant scent here is licorice, because of the star anise and fennel, and a little goes a long way. I’ve also made pork tenderloin with this and it’s fantastic - pork and fennel are a classic pairing, so the five-spice translates quite well. With fall coming, the spice mix is also great in some roasted vegetables. Get it for this recipe and see what else you can come up with!

Serves two, makes four pancakes.


  • 1 large zucchini

  • 1 egg

  • 1 ear of corn

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (some extra, if your batter is too watery)

  • 1/2 tsp sugar

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper (black is okay too!)

  • 1 tsp sesame oil

  • Toasted sesame seeds (optional)


Grate the zucchini with a box grater or food processor into a bowl. Add the salt to the zucchini and let it sit for 15 mins, until the water has been drained. Do not discard the water.

While the zucchini sits, char one ear of corn on a gas stove. I place my directly on the fire and rotate periodically. I like mine pretty charred but you can cook to your liking. You can also char this on a grill outside but the direct fire makes for a better corn. Then, shave the corn off of the ear with a knife.

In the same bowl as the zucchini and its water, add the shaved corn, egg, sliced scallions, flour, sugar, five-spice powder, and ground white pepper. Mix this well. If the batter feels too thin, add flour a little at a time to get it to pancake batter consistency.

Heat up a pan (I used a cast iron pan) on medium heat. Drizzle some sesame oil and spread the batter onto the pan. Cook the pancakes about 3-5 mins on each side.

Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and serve with sriracha and a dipping sauce of your liking!

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