Today’s international pancake is Chinese. Scallion Pancakes (Cong You Bing) are wonderfully chewy, flaky, and savory. It is one of my favorite Chinese take-out restaurant treats, and a must-have Dim Sum in my book. For these reasons, I give these pancakes a Chinese provenance, though there is also a very similar Korean version called Pa Jun (Pajeon??). What the exact distinctions are I cannot say, but it may be minced scallion as opposed to strips of scallion.
So whether you call this Cong You Bing or Pa Jun this pan-fried bread is made from dough instead of batter and has a lot in common with Indian parathas (another one of my take-out favorites) and other simple flatbreads found in lots of cultures.
My version comes from one of my favorite blogs Big, Bold, Beautiful Food. It seems Ninette’s daughter has been making these tasty treats since she was quite young, so I figure it’s a recipe with all the kinks worked out. Which is just perfect in this instance because I have never attempted to make these before.
I have to admit I set the bar pretty high for myself because I love Scallion Pancakes and expect them to be as good as I get from my favorite Chinese take-out place. So any minor tweaks I made to Ninette’s recipe were made so that mine would more resemble the take-out version I am used to.
But to be honest the main difference is size. Ninette says to make them as big as your pan, but I made mine about 4 inches in diameter.
The great thing I learned is that these are not hard to make. The only tricky part is the rolling process used to get the scallion into the dough and well distributed. The top picture is my attempt to show all these steps in one photograph.
To me the perfect accompaniment to a Scallion Pancake is congee. But that’s another food I have never attempted to make at home and must get around to trying some day. But mostly I see them served as part of a morning Dim Sum or as street food served outside my Asian market.
I also like a rather spicy dipping sauce, but I think that may be a more North American mannerism rather than a true Chinese way to eat these pancakes, which seems to be on the run.
One more thing, I think I’ll pass along a story about these Scallion Pancakes. Now I warn you this story is probably a fabrication. So I guess I should say I am passing along a bit of gossip. But it seems there are some people in China and Taiwan that believe pizza evolved from these little pancakes! The story goes that Marco Polo so missed the delicious Scallion Pancakes he enjoyed on his journey that he wanted to have them reproduced in Italy.
One day, he finally managed to meet a chef from Naples at a friend’s dinner party who agreed to recreate the dish. Well, they tried and tried to get the onions inside the dough, but were not privy to Ninette’s secret rolling process. Finally, they gave up and decided the filling should be put on top of the dough rather than inside. The change, by chance, created a dish praised by everyone at the party. The chef then returned to Naples and improvised by adding cheese and other ingredients inventing what we call pizza.
However, according to Wikipedia “modern research in Europe proves that neither pizza nor pasta were transmitted to Europe by Marco Polo, but existed in the Mediterranean long before the time of Marco Polo.” So I guess I am guilty of spreading lies and innuendo. But it’s such a cute story I think it deserves to be spread around like it’s the gospel truth!
- 2 c flour
- 3/4 c hot water
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 T vegetable oil, plus more for pan-frying
- sesame oil
- scallions, thinly sliced, green parts only
- 1/2 c soy sauce
- 1/4 c rice vinegar
- 2 t toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 t crumbled dried red chile
- 1 t sugar
Stir together flour, salt, hot water, and 1 T vegetable oil. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until soft and smooth, 10 minutes or until satiny smooth. If the dough won’t stay together, add water in small increments. If the dough is too wet, slowly add flour. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. If you’re not ready to make the pancakes yet, you can put the dough in the fridge for up to a day or so.
Roll dough into a 16-inch log on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 16 pieces. Roll each piece out into a 4‑inch circle, keeping remaining pieces covered as you work. Brush with sesame oil; sprinkle with about 1 t scallions. Roll each piece into a tight cylinder; pinch ends to seal. Press to flatten. Wrap each cylinder around itself to form a spiral (seam side in); pinch ends. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand 20 minutes (or up to 5 hours).
Place spirals on a lightly floured surface. Flatten gently. Roll out to 4‑inch circles. Let stand 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, for dipping sauce, whisk together all ingredients. (Makes about 3/4 cup.)
Heat 1 T vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pancakes, 2 or 3 at a time, flipping once, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side (add oil as necessary). Drain on paper towels. Season with salt. (To keep warm, place in an oven heated to 200 degrees.) Cut into wedges, and serve with dipping sauce.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD