I came to Chinese food (more specifically Chinese-American food) rather late in the game. Growing up, we ordered from Dominoes, frequented the drive thru at McDonalds and occasionally picked up Roy Roger’s when no one felt like cooking. But Chinese was never an option. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but in any case, I didn’t eat my first eggroll until I was seventeen. It was at the mall food court, as one of those pick two combo’s and to tell you the truth, I was not that impressed. Maybe we didn’t eat Chinese growing up because it wasn’t all that good, I thought.
Well over the years I obviously came to my senses – discovering the joys of General Tso’s, fried rice, steamed pork buns and scallion pancakes. Along with those neon red spare ribs, scallion pancakes are pretty much my favorite thing to order off a Chinese menu. But alas, I never do. Why you ask? Why am I silently suffering, abstaining from my favorite thing? Well, aside from being a drama queen, it’s because unfortunately, scallion pancakes just don’t travel well. The light, crispy layers become soggy and dense from condensation and arrive limp and lifeless. So I realized that my options were to only enjoy them when physically visiting a Chinese restaurant (acceptable, but not frequent enough for my taste), or learn how to make them at home. Well you can guess what I did next right? Procrastinated. But after that I did some online research and quickly found many recipes that all looked relatively easy. I set out the scant number of ingredients and got to work. And guess what I learned? They are in fact easy, the end product is just as good as what you get in a restaurant, AND they are really fun to make. What they are not: as fast as ordering from your neighborhood Chinese place…but what they lack in convenience they more than make up for in flavor. Now I’m not saying I’m going to completely stop ordering Chinese takeout. For instance, those delicious spare ribs I mentioned before…I’m not trying to recreate that neon mess in my kitchen. But scallion pancakes and me, we are making up for lost time, and we’re doing it at home.
Servings: 4 PANCAKES Time: 90 MINUTES Source: ADAPTED from SERIOUS EATS
I have seen versions of this recipe where you only do the rolling, coiling, rolling process once through, which is fine, but results in a slightly denser pancake. You can hold these in a warm oven for about 30 minutes, but my favorite way to enjoy them is straight from the pan, cut into wedges, dunked in dipping sauce, preferably surrounded by good friends.
2 C flour (plus extra for rolling)
½ tsp fine salt
¾ C boiling (or very hot) water
2 T toasted sesame oil
6 scallions thinly sliced
Vegetable oil for frying
In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. Add most of the water and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon – it will be shaggy to start.
Once the dough has cooled down a bit, but still very warm to the touch, start kneading it with your hands in the bowl – squeezing the dry flour in bit by bit. You may need to add the remaining water if the dough remains very shaggy, but be patient, it will continue to hydrate as you work with it.
Once you have a cohesive ball and most or all of the flour has been worked in, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for five minutes.
Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Divide dough into 4, keeping the portions you are not currently working with covered with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. Take one portion of dough and on a lightly floured surface roll into an 8-9 inch circle. Perfect circles are really not necessary here at all.
Brush a very light coating of sesame oil onto dough, covering the surface, then starting at the bottom end, roll the dough up into a snake. Then coil the dough into a spiral and tuck the end under.
Repeat with all of the dough, letting each dough spiral rest under plastic wrap while working with the others.
Now you will repeat this process, rolling each spiral into an 8-9 inch circle and brushing with sesame oil. Sprinkle the dough lightly with kosher salt and scatter scallions over the surface before rolling up as before into a snake and then coiling into a spiral. Set aside while you continue with the rest of the dough.
Roll each spiral out once more into an 8 inch circle.
Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to generously coat the pan (I used about 3 tablespoons).
Fry one scallion pancake at a time, about 3-4 minutes per side, or until spotty golden brown.
You can transfer each pancake to a wire rack set over a sheet pan and place in a 250° F oven to keep warm while frying the rest.
Cut into wedges and serve with soy dipping sauce (below).
Soy Dipping Sauce
Servings: ½ CUP Time: 3 MINUTES
2.5 T soy sauce
1.5 T honey
1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp sriracha or chili paste
3 T water
1 scallion, thinly sliced
In a bowl, combine all ingredients, making sure to stir until honey is dissolved.