If a cuisine is not famous, Wiki will not have a detail write up and Wiki have some interesting write up on the Chinese scallion pancake. Since Wiki uses the word scallion, I have also use the name scallion instead of spring onion that we commonly used here. It is interesting that this pancake is linked to pizza and there are some unconfirmed sayings that pizza is transformed from Chinese scallion pancake after Marco Polo’s trip to Far East.
“Marco Polo missed scallion pancakes so much that when he was back in Italy, he tried to find chefs willing to make the pancake for him. One day, he managed to meet a chef from Naples at a friend’s dinner party and persuaded him to try recreating the dish. After half a day without success, Marco Polo suggested the filling be put on top rather than inside the dough. The change, by chance, created a dish praised by everyone at the party. The chefs returned to Naples and improvised by adding cheese and other ingredients and formed today’s pizza.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scallion_pancake)
Scallion pancake is not more than some dough using plain flour and flavoured by chopped spring onion. It is common in the Northern part of China where wheat is a staple crop. As per wiki:
“A scallion pancake (Chinese: 葱油饼; pinyin: cōngyóubǐng; Mandarin pronunciation [tsʰʊ́ŋi̯ǒu̯pìŋ]) is a Chinese savory,unleavened flatbread folded with oil and minced scallions (green onions). Unlike Western pancakes, it is made from doughinstead of batter. Variations exist on the basic method of preparation that incorporate other flavors and fillings. Scallion pancakes are served both as a street food item and as a restaurant dish. They are also sold commercially, either fresh or frozen in plastic packages (often in Asian supermarkets).”
If you Google scallion pancake, you will note that there are many types of scallion pancake, some are thicker and some are very thin depends on individual preference. Some even looked like roti pratha and I remember the frozen roti pratha or canai does have this variation. In fact, the method of preparation are very similar and i do not rule out the possibility that all these regional cuisines are inter related.
Though the recipe is very simple by adding flour to water and becoming a dough, but there are some challenges that make the dough easier to eat. The dough must be crispy or for the thick version, it must be soft to eat. If you bluntly add water to flour and pan fried it , what you will get is just a hard piece of pancake.. It is very chewy and I do not many people will eat this type of cake.
There is nothing to shout about the recipe with simple ingredients. To make a soft dough, what you need is just timing of resting. You need to let the dough rest for at least a few hours to relax the gluten. Only gluten that are not elastic will yields soft pancake. To further break the gluten in the flour, semi cooked dough method is used. There are many Chinese recipes that list out the best way to make this humble pancakes. Everyone will claim that theirs is the best but I shall not say the same but I believed the texture is up to my expectation.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: About 12 small scallion pancakes or one big scallion pancake
- 600 grams plain flour or medium protein flour
- 300 grams of hot boiling water
- 80 grams of cold water
- 10 grams of salt
- About 3 tablespoon of lard or cooking oil
- Dashes of white pepper
- 10-15 stalks of medium size spring onion, cleaned, drained and chopped
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- In a mixing bowl, put the flour and salt. Add in the hot boiling water to the dough and use a chopstick to stir until it form a sticky dough. Add cold water gradually and continue stirring. Once the temperature is slightly cooled, use hand to knead the dough until it forms a smooth dough, the dough does not stick to the side of the bowl and your hand is also cleared of any dough. This is called “3 smoothness test – 3 光“。 Cover the dough with a piece of wet cloth and let it rest for about 25-30 minutes.
- When you add hot water to the flour, the flour will gelatinize and you will see wheat starch become transparent. When you start to knead the dough, the dough will be very messy and stick to your bowl and hand. When you continue to knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, gluten starts to develop and it’s elastic property set it. The gluten will stick together thus making your bowl and hand smooth.
- After 30 minutes, your dough shall be softer and easier to stretch. In a lightly dusted surface with plain flour, roll the dough rectangular to about 1 –2 mm thickness. The thinner it is , the more layers it will be and easier to get crispy. Brush the dough with lard or cooking oil, sprinkle generously with chopped scallion and white pepper. Start folding into a rolled cake structure. Cut equally into 8 pieces. Seal the edges to prevent scallion from dropping out. (NOTE: please refer to the other picture for another way of preparation)
- Lightly grease the balls and transfer these dough balls in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a piece of wet cloth and let it rest for at least 2-3 hours. If you are running short of time, you can let it rest in the fridge overnight and it will yield much softer cake. The longer the resting, the softer will be the pancake.
- Heat up a frying pan. You have a choice to either grease with oil or dry pan frying. Once the pan is hot, reduce the heat to medium. Shallow oil pan frying will make the cake crispier.
- Take a dough ball, press it down either by hand or by a rolling pin. Pan fry the pancake until one side is cooked. Flip over and cook until the other side is golden brown. It is the best practise that in Chinese pan frying, you are supposed to flip the dough at least three times and in each position, slightly change the dough position3 times to ensure a well fry pan cake with even colour consistency .
- The pancake is best eaten when it is hot to enjoy its crispiness (thin) or softness (thick).
- For pan frying a big pancake, after rolling into a rolled cake structure, roll the dough inwards until the shape looks like a snail as in the picture. Use a rolling pin to roll it flat. Pan fry until both sides are golden brown using medium heat.
- In this case, serving will usually be wedges instead of an individual cake.
There are many many recipes of scallion pancake in the internet and everyone has its uniqueness. Do give this recipe a try if you are looking for one. Cooked dough 烫面 will make the dough softer and remember that the longer you rested the dough, the softer it will be. Inadequate rested dough will yield a chewy and tough pancake. Thin or thick pancake you will need to make some discretion.
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