Scallion Pancakes: An Asian take on the classic American Pancake
I absolutely love Asian Cuisines! I love the flavors. I love the spice. I love the cooking methods. I love the traditions surrounding the meals and cooking styles. If you asked me what my favorite thing to cook is, as chefs are often asked, I would probably say anything Asian. Asian food is certainly one of my favorites to eat!
Several years ago, while on a mini vacation, my husband and I found a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese Dim Sum Restaurant. We just had to try! And, it was fabulous! They had everything from fried duck feet to traditional spring rolls. We ordered several items we had never had before. A squid salad, fried shrimp balls, an egg dish, etc. It was all amazing. However, the favorite, by far, for both of us were the scallion pancakes. They were light and flaky. They were crisp and exploding with flavor. I have been on a mission ever since to re-create these at home.
I have researched recipes, researched how they are made, and experimented at home. First of all, let me say that there are thousands of scallion pancake recipes out there. And, I have tried many. There are a few things that all of the good recipes have in common: Hot water and the rolling method. That being said, here is a basic overview about scallion pancakes:
Scallion pancakes are a traditional savory Chinese pancake. They are unique (as a lot of Asian foods are) in that they are made with a rolled dough rather than with a batter, as we are typically used to. They are also unique in that they are made with a hot water dough. Most doughs used in any type of American and European cuisines are cold water doughs. Cold water dough allows for an airy, hole-filled, flaky dough. Which is fantastic for pizza. But, with the typical dough applications for Asian cuisine, such as egg roll wrappers and wontons, you do not want airy and hole-filled. This is where the hot water comes in. Hot water relaxes the gluten in the dough which makes for a less “stretchy” dough that has a chewier texture. Part of the flakiness in the scallion pancakes comes from the rolling method, which is similar to the process of making a laminated dough (such as croissants). With the hot water dough and the rolling method, the result is a tender and flaky “flatbread”, speckled with scallions and flavored with a mild tinge of sesame oil. Delicious!
The recipe I eventually developed and settled upon includes one ingredient that is not necessarily typical of a scallion pancake recipe: Clabber Girl Baking Powder. I found that the addition of the baking powder adds just a bit more flakiness to the dough. Typically, baking powder reacts a little bit with liquid and the rest of the reaction happens with heat (when you bake or cook the item). The scallion pancake recipe calls for hot water. Therefore, the reaction happens entirely during the dough production, prior to baking or cooking. This creates a dough that doesn’t rise in the traditional sense but, it does add a bit more flakiness to the dough itself and is evident upon cooking.
The majority of the flakiness, however, comes from the rolling method. The dough is rolled flat and sprinkled with the green onions.
It is then rolled up, such as with a jelly roll.
After that, sections of the dough are rolled in a coil and then rolled flat again.
This creates multiple layers throughout each pancake, as well as disperses the scallions throughout the dough.
I have kept my recipe fairly traditional, with just scallions, chili flake, and sesame oil. However, please feel free to use this as a base recipe and make your own additions or omissions. For example, if you love garlic, add garlic! Add ginger or play with different types of oils. Have fun with it! I also provided a recipe for a dipping sauce that I like to serve with it. Again, play with the flavors to suit your likes. When testing my final recipe, I tossed the dipping sauce with noodles and made a whole meal out of it. It’s an easy way to compliment the pancakes without putting in much more work. Happy cooking and, I hope you enjoy!
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. Clabber Girl Baking Powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 2/3 cups boiling water
1 cup green onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
Red chili flake, to taste (optional)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a medium sized mixing bowl. Slowly pour the boiling water into the flour mixture in a stream while mixing with a wooden spoon. Stir until a dough begins to form. If the dough is too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time until all of the flour is absorbed into the dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured flat surface. Knead the dough until smooth, about 4 minutes.
Transfer to a greased bowl, cover; and let sit at room temperature for 90 minutes.
After 90 minutes, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut in half. Using a rolling pin, roll 1 half of the dough into a large rectangle (about 1/8” thick).
Brush the rolled dough with 1 Tbsp. of the sesame oil. Sprinkle with ½ cup of the thinly sliced green onion. If you like, sprinkle with red chili flake to taste.
Beginning with one long side of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough up. Cut the roll into 4 pieces. Lightly stretch each piece lengthwise, being careful not to rip dough. Beginning with one piece of dough, wrap it into a coil and tuck the end underneath. With your hand, gently flatten the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll the coil into a 4” circle. Repeat this process with the remaining dough pieces and with the remaining dough half. You can layer the pancakes on a sheet tray with parchment paper in between as you complete them.
Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When pan and oil are hot, add one pancake to the skillet.
Cook until golden brown on both sides, flipping only once (about 5-7 minutes). Repeat with remaining pancakes. If desired, keep the finished pancakes warm during production by laying them on a sheet tray in a warm oven.
To serve, cut pancakes into wedges. Serve with dipping sauce on the side.
Yields 8 pancakes (4”)
Scallion Pancake Dipping Sauce
¼ cup Ponzu Sauce
1 Tbsp. Thai Chili Sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ginger, minced
2 tsp. sesame oil
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, while stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and let cool.