Chinese scallion pancakes are both a street food favorite as well as found in restaurants. They are easier than you might think to make at home with only a few ingredients. The result is a delicious mix of flaky layers, chewiness, crisp outside and tasty flavors.
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Many places enjoy some kind of pancake, whether sweet or savory in some kind of way. The size and exact ingredients can vary, but you typically have some kind of batter that you spoon or drizzle onto a griddle or skillet.
Many Asian pancakes, though, are that bit different. Some have about as many additions as batter, like Korean vegetable pancakes, yachae jeon. Then others, like these and their sweet Korean cousin hotteok, are made with a dough rather than a batter.
These pancakes are a simple combination of a chewy dough with finely chopped scallions and oil as the filling. You can just use a plain oil, but you can also use, as here, part sesame oil for a little extra flavor.
While you can serve them just as they are, a simple dipping sauce makes all the difference to add a little extra flavor. You'll find a couple different versions but most at least use a soy sauce base and typically a little vinegar and sugar to balance the flavors.
What makes these pancakes different
There are a couple things about how you make these that makes them unique. Firstly, you use a hot water dough, and secondly, you effectively laminate the dough to make lots of flaky layers. Let me explain in a little more detail.
Using hot water for the dough effectively stops the gluten development. This means it isn't going to spring back and get stretchy, as you would want for bread, but that's great for these as it gives a great chewiness. It also makes it easier to roll the dough thinly.
Laminating is a fancy name for making layers of dough and fat which gives a great flaky texture. It's the process used to make croissants, just the dough and fat for those is different. Here, you make a flour and oil paste which helps separate the layers.
Unlike croissants where you start with a thicker block of pastry and butter and roll them multiple times, here you roll the dough really thin, add the oil paste and scallions then roll it up. Then coil up the roll and flatten it out again.
Don't worry if some of the filling or air bubbles pop when you roll the pancakes out a second time. Just tuck the scallions back in to the dough. Then warm some oil in a skillet and cook on both sides until they are golden.
They are unlikely be even in color since the dough tends to bubble and won't be completely even, but don't worry, they still cook. If you are unsure, you can always turn it back to the first side for a little extra cook, just take care not to burn them.
You can eat these just as they are, but the simple dipping sauce pairs perfectly to give an extra zing.
These savory Chinese scallion pancakes are a wonderful balance of crispness on the outside, flaky layers and a chewy texture throughout. The flavor is distinctly savory but with lots of nice delicate nuances going on. Perfect snacking, either as they are or with other dishes.
Try these other Chinese favorites:
- Shrimp shumai (dumplings)
- Hong shao rou - red braised pork belly
- Chinese oven steamed fish
- Vegetable dumplings (jiaozi)
- Plus get more Chinese recipes and appetizers in the archives.
Chinese scallion pancakes
- 1 cup all purpose flour plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup hot water boiling hot, or a little more as needed
- 2 scallions green onion/spring onion, or 3, if small
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ tablespoon vegetable oil or other neutral oil
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
For dipping sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil or more/less as needed, or other neutral oil
- Place the flour in a bowl and mix in the salt. Add the hot water and mix to a smooth dough. If needed, add a little more hot water so that the dough comes together into a ball but is not wet.
- Knead the dough for around 3 - 5 minutes then wrap in cling wrap/film and set aside to rest for around 30 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, trim the white part and dark ends from the scallions then finely mince/chop the middle light and mid-green part for the filling and set aside. Separately, blend together the flour and oils into a smooth paste.
- Mix together the ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside. You'll need to mix a little more before serving as the sesame oil will likely separate a little.
Forming the pancakes
- Once the dough has rested, divide it into 4 even pieces and roll each into a ball. Take one and set the others aside and cover them until needed.
- Roll out the one piece of dough as thinly and large as possible. It can be helpful to roll on a silicone mat. You can make it a rectangle or circle, as the dough rolls.
- Brush the top of the dough with a thin layer of the oil-flour paste then sprinkle over some scallions evenly over the top (use around 1 rounded tbsp).
- Starting from one side, roll up the pancake with the scallions inside to form a relatively tight roll. Then, flatten the roll slightly with the seam on the top (this also helps push out the air). Take one end and roll it up in a coil, so that the seam ends up on the inside of the coil (see photos above and video). At the end, you can either just press the end against the coil or tuck it under. Set the coil aside while you repeat the same process with the rest of the dough and filling.
- Once all the coiled pancakes are formed, flatten the coil side with your hand to spread it out a little then roll it out into a circle around 6 in (15cm) diameter. Don't worry if some air bubbles pop a little and pieces of scallion pop out, just tuck them back in.
- Warm a thin layer of oil in a small skillet/frying pan over a medium heat then fry the pancakes for a minute or two either side until lightly brown over most of the pancake and cooked through. Repeat with rest, adding a little more oil as needed. Cut the pancakes into triangles (quarters or smaller, if you prefer) and serve warm. If can be good to bend them a little either before you cut or as you eat to help fluff up and separate the layers.
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