April 01, 2009

Scallion pancakes

When I write posts for this blog I usually try to stick to my theme of "easy" to prepare foods that can be created in a relatively short time. Sometimes I include something that is easy to make but might require a bit more time. That may be the case for today's offering. It wasn't really very hard to do, but it wasn't quick, and it wasn't something I'd whip up after a hard day of work. Maybe I'd do it on a leisurely weekend when I had some time to play with my food.

The recipe comes from a Chinese cooking class that my husband and I recently attended. The version I offer here uses half whole grain flour instead of the all-purpose flour used in class, and in my version, the nutty-wheaty taste and texture of the flour has a presence that was missing in the class version. If you prefer a lighter, more authentic taste, I suggest you substitute 2-1/8 cups unbleached white or all purpose flour for the flour mix I list. The pancakes tasted great, so if you're used to whole grains, go with this version.

The scallion pancakes the teacher demonstrated were really delicious, and though a bit oily, they were much less greasy than the ones we had at a Chinese restaurant in Seattle, which were probably deep fried. But, I think the pancakes are meant to be a little oily. My first attempt was so oil-phobic that they lost some of their essential character. The amount of oil is so small, I think it would be better to just use the oil and enjoy the taste.

Scallion pancakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (stir before measuring) (see above story)
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour (stir before measuring)
  • 4 ounces boiling water
  • about 2 ounces cold water
  • 4–6 scallions, white and green parts—slice each scallion lengthwise, then mince finely
  • toasted sesame oil
  • salt to taste
  • oil for the pan (peanut is traditional) and oil to brush or spray directly onto the pancakes
1. Mix the two flours together on a board.

2. Make a well in the center and add the boiling water. Flip and scrape the flour around with a dough scraper or spatula to incorporate the flour and water. (Be very careful about not using your hands here, as the water and forming dough will be burning hot. It will quickly become cool enough to handle and you can start using your hands at that point.)

3. When all the water is incorporated, gradually add the cold water until you have a flexible, kneadable dough. Don't make the dough too stiff. Knead the dough until, as our teacher says, you have the three shinings. (1) Your hands are clean of sticking dough, (2) the board is clean and (3) the dough is shiny. (I'd say, "more or less" shiny.) Step 3 takes about 5 minutes.

4. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest 20 minutes. Or more. After its rest, cut the dough into 2 sections and wrap 1 of them in the damp towel. Roll the other into a rectangle that is about 1/8" – 3/16" thick, and about 6" x 9". Brush toasted sesame oil (or spread with your fingers) all over the dough. Use 1 teaspoon. Cover with minced scallions and sprinkle with salt (1/4 teaspoon).

5. Roll into a log shape starting with the long end. Then coil the log into a spiral, tucking the last end underneath.

6. Pat the coil into a flattened round, and then roll into a round pancake about 1/8" thick, with your rolling pin. Be gentle, as the dough may have a tendency to rip around the scallions and oil. Try to roll to the edge rather than over it, as much as you can. If you roll over the edge, the pancake may break and some of the oil will ooze out. This is probably unavoidable to some extent, and is OK.

7. Heat the pan and coat lightly with oil. Spray the pancake with oil. Use a wide spatula to ease the pancake up and into the pan, sprayed side down, then spray the top side of the pancake.

8. Fry over low heat, flipping a couple of times, until both sides turn golden with patches of deep color. Cook the pancake slowly, over low heat so it doesn't burn before the inside cooks. (about 10 minutes) If you prefer, you can use a non-stick pan and cook the pancake in a light coating of oil. Peanut oil is traditional, but I used canola to spray the pan and the pancake. I tried both types of pans and thought the pancake came out better in the cast iron.

9. Drain on a paper towel if desired. Cut into 8 or 12 triangles (like pizza) and eat immediately. Repeat with the other dough section.

Note: I made these pancakes so many times to get the recipe right, that just the thought of eating anymore is making me weak. I learned a few things, though. The first dough I made (not included here) was a little tough. It was a larger recipe and more than we could handle in one day, so I stored the leftover dough in the refrigerator overnight. When I made a pancake the next day, it was much lighter and more tender. Really good, actually. So, you could probably make the dough a day ahead and roll and fry them when needed. I used a mix of white whole wheat and unbleached flour but decided to switch to whole wheat pastry flour for the second batch. I think I made the first batch too stiff, so I added a little more water to the second batch, and it worked much better; not enough to require adding flour for kneading, but enough to produce a softer dough.

Update: I would try making these with white whole wheat flour, which produces baked goods very much like those made with unbleached white flour.


  1. These are one of my all-time favorites, and yours look great! My recipe uses peanut oil (for which I sub olive oil)--but I'm going to try sesame next time. I bet it adds a lovely dimension.

  2. These sound fantastic! They remind me of filled parathas. Now I want some of these.

  3. Ricki,
    Peanut oil is the traditional oil for cooking Chinese food, but the toasted sesame is for coating the dough before it gets covered in green onions and rolled up. It gives the pancakes a delicious toasty flavor.

    I know what you mean about the parathas - maybe even a little like quesadillas.

  4. How unusual! Looks sooo good though.

  5. I guess these are very popular as a snack or first course in China, though we don't find them in many Chinese restaurants in the US. I first had them in a restaurant in Seattle, and the second time was in our cooking class.

  6. Oh, those look really, really good! I really like that you took photos as you went. That really helps :)

  7. Você completou alguns bons pontos lá. Eu fiz uma pesquisa sobre o tema e descobriu que a maioria das pessoas terá a mesma opinião com o seu blog.


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