In the midst of cooking my way through Eastern Europe, I’m taking a mini break for a simple Chinese appetizer.
I would not call myself a connoisseur of Chinese cuisine by any means — either the Americanized Chinese take out we know and love or the authentic dishes of various regional Chinese provinces. I tend to order the same things if and when I get take out with the tried and true favorites (a little fried rice, some lo mein and I’m all about egg rolls and dumplings!)… But in an attempt to broaden my horizons, I want to master some old Chinese favorites before branching out (both in cooking and ordering contexts). A couple months ago, I made wonton soup and now another favorite – scallion pancakes (traditionally called “cong you bing”).
Fun fact – the best scallion pancakes I’ve ever had were in Boston at Gourmet Dumpling House! And, for a bit of historical myth (?), it’s said that Marco Polo traveled to China and once back home missed scallion pancakes so much he invented the pizza… Take that as you will but I, for one, am gonna call BS on that idea!
It’s simple recipe (and one you can easily replicate at home). The pancakes are made from an unleavened dough of water and flour (that’s right two ingredients!) and then scallions are rolled into the dough. You then roll the dough into a long snake, cut it in half and coil each half into a ball. After which, you flatten each coiled ball into what will become your pancakes. Pan fry in oil over medium high heat and ta-da scallion pancakes!
- 2½ cups white flour
- 1 cup warm water
- Canola or vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 bunch scallions
- Mix 2½ cups flour with 1 cup water until it forms a smooth dough. Knead by doubling the dough over and pressing it down repeatedly, until the dough is even more smooth and very elastic. Coat this ball of dough lightly in oil and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
- Cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Lightly oil the back of a large metal baking sheet. Roll out one part of the dough on the back of the baking sheet. Roll until it is a thin rectangle at least 12 x 9 inches.
- Finely chop the bunch of scallions and have them ready, along with a small bowl of kosher salt.
- Lightly brush the top of the dough with oil, then sprinkle it evenly with chopped scallions and kosher salt.
- Starting from the long end, roll the dough up tightly, creating one long snake of rolled-up dough.
- Cut the dough snake in two equal parts.
- Take one of these halves and coil into a round dough bundle.
- Roll out the coiled dough bundle again into a flat, smooth, round pancake.
- Heat a 10-inch heavy skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat, and oil it with a drizzle of canola of vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers, pick up the pancake dough and lay it gently in the pan. It should sizzle, but not burn. Cook for 2 minutes on one side.
- Flip the pancake over with a spatula and cook for an additional 2 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown.
- Cut the pancake into wedges with a pair of kitchen scissors, and serve immediately with soy sauce or another dipping sauce.