The exact origin of scallion pancakes, or cōng yóu bǐng (蔥油餅), is a bit murky. Many people believe they first popped up on the culinary map in Shanghai. It’s historically been one of mainland China’s most diverse cities and home to people from many parts of the world, including India — and scallion pancakes do bear a striking resemblance to Indian paratha flatbread.
Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing’s for sure … well, two things actually: Scallion pancakes are a super popular street food in China and Taiwan and a take-out favorite here in the States. And the comparison to flatbread is a good one because, unlike batter-based American pancakes, scallion pancakes are made using an unleavened dough of flour, salt, and boiled water.
This dough is a bit of an arts and craft project — there’s some vigorous mixing, kneading, and forming. The process of rolling, coiling, and flattening the dough helps ensure the green onion’s savory flavor is evenly distributed throughout the pancakes. It also creates layers, or lamination, in the dough (think: croissant), so the pancakes fry up soft and chewy on the inside and golden and crispy on the outside.
A few frying tips from the test kitchen: Make sure your oil is at medium heat. Too cold, and it’ll soak into the pancake; too hot, and the pancakes will burn pretty quickly. And much like buttermilk pancakes, the first one in the pan isn’t always the best, so we recommend reserving a little bit of dough for a test run!
Here, we serve the pan-fried scallion pancakes with a punchy, soy-based dipping sauce made with rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, sambal oelek, and sesame seeds. It brings salty-sweet, garlicky heat to the doughy, comforting pancakes — a match made in culinary heaven!
Scallion pancakes make a fantastic happy hour appetizer, but they’re also great dinner fare. Sliced like a pie, they tuck nicely into a veggie-heavy rice bowl or stir-fry (you might even drizzle the dipping sauce over the bowl). And they’d be right at home on a plate of crispy salmon and grilled bok choy.
Servings: 4 to 6
To make the dipping sauce: Whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, ginger, garlic, scallions, and sambal oelek. Whisk in the sesame seeds just before serving.
In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Pour in the boiling water and quickly mix it into the flour until absorbed.
Work the cold water into the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until incorporated between each addition. Stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the dough is well hydrated and quite sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 10 minutes, until smooth and slightly tacky.
Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and let it rest for 40 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use a bench or chef’s knife to divide it into 4 equal pieces. Keep the dough covered with the damp towel until ready to use.
Roll 1 piece of dough into a ⅛”-thick round. Lightly brush the top with vegetable oil and sprinkle it with about ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ of the green onions.
Roll the dough up, around green onions, into a log, pinching to seal the edges.
Take 1 end of the log and twist the dough around itself, like a cinnamon roll. Repeat steps 6 through 8 with remaining dough. Allow the disks to rest for 10 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place 1 disk on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a ¼”-thick pancake.
Fry the pancake in the hot oil, pressing it down with the back of a spatula, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining disks.
Slice the pancakes into wedges and serve warm with the dipping sauce.
Recipe source: All Recipes