Fantastic Feasts and Where to Find Them: Scallion Pancakes and Sustainability

Howdy everyone, Fenrir here with yet another fantastic feast that you all find (Hopefully) appealing and wish to make yourself! This week we are going to tackle a dim sum classic, scallion pancakes, and also talk about a few tricks to (Again, hopefully) save you some cash. That’s right, we’re going to be hip and happening and talk about ways to safely grow some extra veggies from store-bought ones, as well as a rather straight-forward recipe for my favorite dim sum treat.

Scallion pancakes from my favorite dim sum joint, Silver Pond; unfortunately it's harder to make than it looks

So if you’re up for the challenge (Because this is not a one-two-three, hey I can make restaurant quality pancakes kind of deal) let’s go past the jump and try it out!

And, yes, I included a picture of scallion pancakes the way they are supposed to be made to highlight that these tasty devils require a bit of skill to pull off, and maybe practice.

 For those of you who might not know, dim sum is a special treat; it’s a style of Chinese cooking that involves many bite-sized pieces of food. Served alongside steaming pots of tea, most of the fun (And what most people expect) about dim sum is the way that it is served: carts whisk about from table to table with steaming plates and baskets of portioned food. There’s all kinds of dishes served in manageable bite-sized portions ranging from dumplings, to vegetables, to bowls of noodles or sticky rice, and of course, pastries such as scallion pancakes.

Cong you bing/ 葱油饼/scallion pancakes are a type of savory flat-bread-pancake with minced scallions folded inside. Fried to a perfect crisp, they are a delightful snack that is both crispy on the outside and light on the inside with a distinct chew and layers of flaky pastry. While I’m happy to order a plate (or more) of pancakes whenever I go out for dim sum, I confess I had no idea how they were made. I assumed they were similar to a crepe with batter fried up in a pan and scallions sprinkled on top; of course, that didn’t explain how there were distinct layers within one pancake.

A quick Internet search explained that yes, I was wrong, and that scallion pancakes are more like a bread that is folded in the lamination style — a technique used for French croissants that encourage those flaky, separate layers. So the combination of specially folded and rolled dough, plus the deep fry, was what yielded the unique texture for the scallion pancakes that I loved to eat.

Also through my research I found that making the dough wasn’t terribly hard; in fact, besides the scallions, the only thing one needed would be flour, salt, water, and some sesame oil.

So I couldn’t resist trying it out; but much like my Giga Pudding attempt, I believe I sorely underestimated the skill needed to make them well.

But well, we can always improve on our failures, so here’s the recipe and my procedure (Maybe the great Chinese-cooking-gods can see the error of my ways and fix it)

As I mentioned before you’re only going to need four-five ingredients:

  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 Cup boiled water
  • Some sesame oil and a pastry brush (Pour off some in a cup)
  • A lot of chopped scallions
  • Some oil for frying
  • And  patience and rolling-pin skills

Diced scallions smells heavenly; keep them thin!

So to start off, you’ll need to chop up a handful of scallions finely; lop off the white ends and save them and dice up the green parts. I’m serious about saving the white ends, we will return to them later.

Also for your diced up scallions, you could make them big but I chose to chop them as finely as I could. Set aside.

In another bowl combine the flour and salt, and then, pour in 3/4 of the boiled water to start. Stir it around with a wooden spoon; and if the dough does not come together immediately, drizzle in little bits of the water at a time until you have a ball of dough.

Transfer to a floured work surface and knead a bit until you have a smooth ball, then drizzle it with some sesame oil and set in another bowl, covered, and let it rest for about thirty minutes at room temperature. Some recipes say you could also leave it in the fridge, and even overnight if necessary.

Next comes the tricky part, which is essentially the lamination process. As you can tell from the uh, lack of photos this time around, I was a bit distracted; I’m a chef, not a baker, so I was a little occupied with all the flour and the rolling, etc. etc. This recipe was my reference for how the lamination technique should work, and it is very, very helpful because it actually has step-by-step photos!

BUT in terms of a quick overview? The point of the lamination technique is to make as many layers as possible by rolling and folding the dough twice; many layers means light and chewy scallion pancakes. So what you’ll need to do is divide your big dough ball into four (Or more) little balls, then take one ball and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a flat circle. Brush the surface with some sesame oil, then roll it up like a jelly roll so you get a sort of log/snake shape. Then you’re going to twist it up in a circle so you have a coiled, snail-like ball, and then you’re going to flatten it out again with your rolling pin.

After that you brush it with some sesame oil again, and sprinkle on a healthy dosage of scallions, and repeat the process. By rolling, folding, and twisting twice, you’ll have a good number of layers that SHOULD be visible after you cook them. (I know the recipe link doesn’t roll twice, but trust me, one pass won’t produce the layers you seek)

Another tip (Which is probably why mine weren’t so tasty): Make sure you roll them out thinly. Too thick and the pancakes will be doughier than they should be; thinner is better for these pancakes.

Once you’ve rolled up the other dough balls and used up all the scallions, its time for frying. In your pan-of-choice, heat up about an inch or two of oil, then carefully fry out your pancakes. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes to cook them, and once they’re done frying, set them off to cool on a paper-towel-lined-plate.

As you can tell, I didn’t roll them out as thin as I SHOULD have, so while the first one was nice and tasty (And possibly because I was hungry), I noticed on the second and third that the dough was… too thick. It wasn’t inedible, and my taste-tester (AKA. My dad) wolfed his portion down without complaint although I have a sinking feeling he was just being nice to me/was just impressed that I brought honor to the family through cooking. Go figure.

What was successful though, was the inside, which when ripped apart had easy-to-distinguish layers of dough just like if you ripped open a croissant. So, it wasn’t a “failure”, persay, but it wasn’t as tasty as it should have been, and I blame that on my own baking inexperience.

On the plus side, what I was good at doing was saving those scallions and growing them myself.

Growing strong and hey, I don't have to buy anymore this summer, just keep snipping off scallions as needed

It’s a little known-fact but there are some vegetables and herbs that will do well and regrow if you save and conserve them. Scallions are one of those veggies that are rather prolific even if you’ve lopped up the green ends for cooking; just save the white portions and in a nice, deep container with soil, plant them. They don’t need much, just some water, soil, and sunlight, and they’ll grow right back.

Up there are a bunch of scallions that I replanted after a family barbecue when we needed loads of them for a kalbi marinade. That was back in June, and they’re doing nicely two months later and look as good as when I bought them at the Asian grocery. There are lists running around the Internet everywhere for plants you can possibly regrow in your own home garden or on a windowsill (Such as this one here), so don’t think you can (Or should) just throw out everything, check first if you can reuse your veggies :3

Annnnd, that’s all there is to this week’s sort-of fantastic feast. And while I thought that living at home and having access to a better kitchen would mean freedom to experiment whenever  I want in the kitchen, it hasn’t been the case. But there’s still some summer left, so tune in next time for something a little more fantastic (As in, fantasy-food-come-to-life) than what’s been served up as of late!

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Fenrir

A would-be anthropologist, writer, food historian, and professional glutton hoping to combine fandom with her love of food. Ever wondered what a nug tasted like? Is butterbeer alcoholic? If you've asked such questions and are already drooling at the thought of a big old plate of lembas bread, then you're in the right place

Latest posts by Fenrir (see all)

Fenrir

A would-be anthropologist, writer, food historian, and professional glutton hoping to combine fandom with her love of food. Ever wondered what a nug tasted like? Is butterbeer alcoholic? If you've asked such questions and are already drooling at the thought of a big old plate of lembas bread, then you're in the right place

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