I love scallion pancakes. I’ve come to realize that scallion pancakes are a common dish I order because it combines two of my favorite things: fried dough and scallions. Well, more specifically: chewy carbs and scallions.
This recipe comes from a really good family friends of ours, the Wu’s. My parents met the Wu’s when they lived in Omaha, Nebraska. They eventually moved to California and lived only a few blocks away from my house in Orange County. The Wu’s owned a restaurant in good ol’ Omaha. So when I was young, there was never any hesitation when I found out that we would be going to their house for dinner. Now, I loved my Mom’s cooking growing up but when Mrs. Wu was cooking, I knew it was a feast that would match my Mom’s skills. But this dish doesn’t come from Mrs. Wu. This came from her always smiling, comb-overed husband Uncle Wu. He first taught me during one of our fake family camping trips.
My parents and their friends, including Uncle Wu, would usually pack up the kids every year and do some sort of outdoor adventure somewhere. Eventually this is what I thought camping was. I soon realized that camping did not include ten course Chinese meals, four butane stoves, and all of Chinatown packed in various coolers. But whatever it was, I loved it. During these trips, I always found myself bored and needing to fill the time I would have spent watching Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, or Darkwing Duck. Eventually I would end up around the make shift kitchen at the picnic tables to see what I could play with. One trip, to help quell my boredom, Uncle Wu graciously taught me the process to create his scallion pancake. The secret? It’s all in the rolling of the dough.
Now, this was no cutsey and nurturing Hallmark moment. No, this was scallion bootcamp. Picture a Chinese man yelling and screaming at an 8 year to roll dough bigger, thinner, and harder at a park bench in the middle of Yosemite. I felt like I was in scallion pancake factory with bears and park rangers staring at me. But, I’m thankful for it. Something about this moment really made an impact on me. It’s one of my earliest memories of cooking and probably one of the moments that really helped me realize that I could actually cook and not have to watch it on the screen. Plus it’s scallions, the best thing in the world.
Scallions are probably one of my favorite ingredients out there. I love that in this dish the scallion flavor is subtle, yet the main player. It’s as if the onion flavor is a spring breeze carrying the fresh flower aroma through the air. Wow, so poetic.
Remember to let the dough rest. It builds the gluten and gives a chewier result. Plus, if you don’t let the dough rest (and knead it like crazy) you won’t be able to really roll it very thin. And if you don’t roll it thin, I will send Uncle Wu to yell at you as you roll out the pancakes, national park not included.
I just had a thought! What if I mixed my top three favorite ingredients? Scallion pancake made with lard! I think that’s a winner.
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour + 3 cups on side
1 cup hot water
1 cup scallion, minced
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1/4 cup kosher salt
vegetable oil to fry
mix 2 1/2 cups flour with 1 cup HOT water until it forms a dough
knead dough until smooth and add flour as necessary
cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes
knead a few more times till smooth
cut the dough into 4 equal parts
roll out one section until it is super thin [see image above]
drizzle the top of the rolled out dough with 1 tbs sesame oil, sprinkle with ¼ cup of the scallion, and sprinkle with some of the salt
roll the dough tightly into a long snake [see image above]
coil the “snake” into a dough bundle, think cinnamon roll [see pillows above]
flatten the coil into flat pancakes with a rolling pin
pan-fry the pancakes in a sauté pan or heavy skillet over medium-heat with vegetable oil until brown (2 minutes) and then flip and cook on the other side until golden brown(about 2 minutes)