Scallion pancakes, 葱油饼 [cōng yóu bing] in Mandarin (simplified Chinese characters) and 蔥油餅 [chung1 yau4 beng2] in Cantonese (traditional Chinese characters). Crispy pancakes consisting of many layers and a lot of scallions (spring onion). These have always been on of my grandfather's favourite. I can remember how every time we went for dim-sum he would always order them and enjoy them to the fullest, even when he didn't have any teeth anymore. Simple yet delicious, a real comfort food. Unfortunately none of the restaurants sell these pancakes here in the Netherlands, maybe because they are too simple. Some time ago I went out and ask around family how to make these and found out they were not that difficult to make. There are different ways to make these pancakes, but I chose to do it the simple way, because they don't really need anything extra. My daughters who normally don't like scallions love these pancakes. If you ever visit Shanghai, you have to try one of the scallion pancakes the street vendors sell. They differ a little bit, mostly because they fry them in so much oil, it almost feels like deep-frying. They are very oily, but delicious nonetheless.
1 bunch scallions (spring onion)
250 grams wheat flour
3 tbsp salt
4-5 tbsp vegetable oil
250 ml water
Put the flour in the mixing bowl. If you want to really do it properly, sift the flour through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl. I don't do this myself, because it saves time and i find the result good to be enough. To prevent the dough from being sticky you can optionally add 1 tbs of oil to it.
Mix in a rice bowl (or measure it precisely, one rice bowl is about 250ml) 2/3 of boiling water with 1/3 cold water.
Slowly pour the water into the mixing bowl while stirring and kneading until the whole becomes soft, no longer sticks and the surface is smooth and shiny. If the dough is too dry, you can always add a little bit more water (1 tbs) until it is just right. Place a damp cloth on top of the bowl and let the dough rest for about 20 minutes. Mind you, these are just guidelines, in the end, do whatever you like. But always remember (or write down) what you did so you know exactly what was different each time, that way when you will know exactly what you used when you perfect a recipe.
Cut the scallions in pieces of about a half centimeter, but stop before you reach the white part. We only want to use the green parts for the pancakes because the flavour in the green part is milder and sweeter. But don't throw away the white part, if you wash them (you can leave the roots attached) you can still use them when you make a soup or bouillon. Let's not waste food unnecessarily.
Mix in a small bowl about 3-4 tbsp oil and 3 tbsp salt. This mixture is what we will be smearing over the dough and will make the pancake have these beautiful layers.
Take the dough and pull a piece off. You will need a ball of about 5-6cm. We will be making 16-17cm sized pancakes. You can of course decide yourself how small or large you want to make them. Sprinkle some flour on the counter/board where you will be working with the dough so it will not stick to it. When you notice the dough sticking to the counter/board, just sprinkle some more flour. Use the rolling pin to flatten the dough until it's very thin. The thinner you roll the dough, the more you will need to roll it up later and the more layers the pancake will have. But roll it too thin and holes will appear, which we don't want.
Use a spoon to take some of the mixture and spread it our over the flattened dough using the back of the spoon. Sprinkle the chopped scallions with your hand and spread it out so there is a bit of scallion everywhere on the dough. And don't be afraid to use too much scallions.
Carefully roll the dough into a cylinder and make it into a circle by turning it around itself (please look at the photo, a picture is worth a thousand words!). Put it aside (where there is flour on the counter, to prevent it from sticking) and keep doing this until you have used all the dough. If you did this very quickly, in less than 10 minutes, you will have to let the rolls rest a bit before you continue.
Take the first roll you made and use the rolling pin to flatten it into a pancake.
Set the frying pan on the stove on medium high heat and pour some oil into it. Don't use too little oil, you will need an thin layer of oil so the pancake can lay in it. Fry the pancake on both sides until it is light golden brownish colour.
Put the pancake on a plate and serve it right away. They taste best right out of the frying pan. If you want to accentuate the layers you can use chopsticks to squiash the pancake together a bit, This will make the layers crack and pop a little so you can see them more clearly. Or if you have kids, you can just use scissors to cut the pancake into smaller pieces so they can be more easily eaten.
Repeat this for all the rolls you made.
If everything went as it was supposed to, you will end up with a pancake of which the cross section will have many layers.
You can experiment and add different spices to the oil and salt mixture to give the pancakes a different taste. I often use the Yim Kok spices. You can also use chicken powder, szechuan pepper, etc. The sky's the limit. You might have to reduce the salt when you add salty spices.