Traditionally made with scallions, I took a North Carolina farmer’s market twist on an old Chinese favorite.
After making my green garlic and bok choy soup, I realized I wanted some sort of filling, starchy side to go with it. Even though I’ve cut down significantly on my carbohydrate consumption, I couldn’t help but get excited for these simple pancakes. The use of green garlic was, in a word, delicious. You can of course make it with the typical green onion.
Fancier versions definitely exist — this one that uses yeast, for instance — but I like this simple version, made with a Chinese “hot water dough” that gently and partially cooks the gluten, resulting in a softer texture. It’s just a simple 2:1 :: flour:hot water ratio, so you can easily cut or expand this recipe to fit your hunger or pantry.
[Sidenote: I have to say the concept of ratios in cooking fascinate me. Too often we’re hung up on the details and are unable to get to the building blocks of a recipe. I love reading old recipes with non-standardized ingredient lists, like “add the milk of one coconut” or “three parts X to one part Y.” Michael Rhulman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking is definitely on my to-read list, although a quick skim shows me that his recipes (understandably) skew very Western, focusing on foods I don’t normally eat/make.]
To be honest, I had never eaten these pancakes until I left home. A Chinese American friend of mine taught me how to make them in college, although our first batch flopped horribly (see tip 1 below). She was shocked when she found out I’d never had a scallion pancake; this just goes to show how “traditional” can mean different things to people even within the same ethnic group. 🙂
These make an excellent side dish or appetizer, freezes well uncooked, and also can be re-heated in the oven (although freshly made is always best). If additional saltiness is needed, try whisking together a quick dipping sauce with some soy sauce, sesame oil, chili flakes and rice vinegar.
- Don’t overwork the dough in the beginning. This pancake is a super simple flour/water combination, and overkneading will create lots of gluten, resulting in one tough pancake (as there is no yeast)
- Salt a smidge more than you think you’ll need — otherwise they’ll be bland
- When first rolling out the dough (to a rectangle), roll it as thin as possible to give you more flaky layers
- Roll the final pancake out thinly, but don’t squash it too hard — you want to maintain the individual layers that you worked hard to develop throughout the process
- The formed, uncooked pancakes can also be frozen for later use, just separate each with a piece of waxed paper, wrap everything up, and freeze
Chinese Green Garlic (or Scallion) Pancakes
Makes 4 small pancakes, enough for an appetizer/side for two
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup Scallions or green garlic, chopped
- Oil — you can use sesame or olive, and neutral oil for frying
- Mix hot water into flour with a fork or chopsticks until incorporated. Once dough is cool enough to touch, knead briefly, until the dough sticks together cleanly (adding additional flour/water as necessary).
- Form into a ball, leave in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, take dough and divide into four equally sized pieces.
- Working one piece at a time, roll out into a rectangular shape (see note 3 above). Brush surface with oil (sesame will give more flavor), and sprinkle with chopped green garlic, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of additional flour.
- Roll the dough up like a cigar or a cinnamon roll. Take the long log and coil it around itself, into a “snail” shape. Tuck the free edge underneath the coil, and use a rolling pin to flatten it out to a circle. Repeat for three remaining pieces of dough.
- Heat a skillet to medium. Using a neutral oil (peanut, vegetable, olive), pan fry the pancakes until golden brown on each side and cooked through. Cut into triangles and serve immediately, or, put aside and reheat in a warm oven.