(Photo: Ethan Finkelstein)
Scallion pancakes was the first recipe I had in mind when I decided to start making cooking videos. It’s a simple dish, but one where it’s very beneficial to see the process in video or photos before starting out. In my new cookbook The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, I have a photo guide on rolling out the pancakes, but it seemed fitting to do an accompanying video as well.
This recipe is a more simplified version of a recipe involving yeast that I first published in May 2009. But it’s no less delicious. The secret to getting flaky layers is all in the folding. Just watch the video and refer to the recipe below!
Of course, there are countless Chinese restaurants where you can satisfy your cravings for scallions pancakes. They make great appetizers when the entrees happen to take longer than five minutes. They absorb the sauce of your moo shu pork like a sponge. And your vegetarian friends can eat them with abandon. But I’ve eaten or seen too many that are too thick, too oily, or lack the flaky layers that define Chinese scallion pancakes. Also, they aren’t supposedly to be as enormous as a Frisbee. As with many other foods, scallion pancakes are really best made at home and served hot off the stove.
For the dough, all you need is flour and water. The basic ratio I use is 3 parts flour to 1 part water, but of course, there are many variables to getting the dough right. Some flours are higher in protein content, so they absorb more water. Sometimes in more humid climates you’ll need a bit more flour, and in dryer climates you’ll need a bit more water. However, the 3:1 ratio works well in most circumstances, so start with that and adjust if you need to.
Once you get used to rolling out the dough, these pancakes will easily become part of your reportoire. There are few ingredients, most of which are pantry staples. And once you coax the dough into little patties, they can be refrigerated or frozen for future use. The one requirement is to put your woks away; use only a flat-bottom skillet for pan-frying.
Chinese Scallion Pancakes
Serves 6 as an appetizer
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if necessary
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil, plus more as needed
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Oil a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour and water until a smooth dough forms. If the dough seems sticky, as it tends to do in humid weather, add a little more flour (starting with 1 tablespoon and up to 1/4 cup total, if needed) and mix again until the dough is no longer sticky.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough in the greased mixing bowl and turn until it is lightly covered with oil all around. Cover the dough with a barely damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Flour your work surface again and roll out the rested dough. Divide the dough in half, then roll each half into a 1-inch-thick cylinder. With a pastry scraper or butter knife, slice the dough into 2-inch-long segments. Dust your rolling pin with flour and roll out each segment into a 5-inch circle.
- Lightly brush the top of each circle with peanut oil, about 2 tablespoons total for all the pancakes. Sprinkle with the scallions and salt.
- Roll up each circle into another cylinder, making sure the scallions stay in place.
- Coil the dough so that it resembles a snail.
- With a rolling pin, flatten again into disks about 1/4 inch thick. The pancakes will get a little oily from the scallions popping through the dough. Place the rolled-out pancakes on a plate and repeat with the remaining dough. If you stack the pancakes, put a piece of parchment paper between each layer to prevent sticking. (Whatever you don’t cooking immediately can be frozen for future use.)
- Heat a nonstick flat-bottomed skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Working in batches, pan-fry the pancakes until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. If the sides or middle puff up during the cooking, press them down with a spatula to ensure even cooking. (You may also need another tablespoon of oil between the batches.) Transfer the pancakes to a plate, cut into wedges, and serve, either alone or with chili sauce or soy sauce and vinegar on the side.
Recipe first published May 26, 2009. Updated March 12, 2013.