Scallion pancakes are definitely in that category of "easier-to-make-than-you-think" foods. All those flaky layers point towards hours of work and folding (like homemade croissants or puff pastry), but in reality these babies can come together in no time. Diana Kuan's scallion pancakes in The Chinese Takeout Cookbook are a prime example.
A simple dough of flour and water just needs a few minutes of kneading to turn supple; after a short rest, the dough is ready to be filled and rolled into miniature savory cakes. The secret to all of the layers? Spirals. The scallions are rolled up like a play-dough cigar inside the dough, and then the whole thing is spiraled into a snail-like circle before being flattened into a thin circle.
Why I picked this recipe: Who doesn't like a good flaky scallion pancake?
What worked: Kuan's photographs and detailed directions make the rolling process straightforward and easy.
What didn't: Don't be shy with the salt here. I didn't season my first few pancakes enough, and had to douse them in soy sauce to make up for it.
Suggested tweaks: I preferred the pancakes that I rolled a bit thinner than the directed 1/4-inch. Try a few different thicknesses to see what you like.
Reprinted from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Quick and easy dishes to prepare at home by Diana Kuan. Copyright 2012. Published by Ballantine Booka, an imprint of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 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 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 cook 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 cooking, press them down with a spatula to ensure even cooking. (You may also need another tablespoon of oil between batches.) Transfer the pancakes to a plate, cut into wedges, and serve.