Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

I find it funny that this dish is called "Chinese Scallion Pancakes" considering that these little pieces of bread would hardly be what I consider pancakes. They're not really bread either, more reminiscent of Indian roti or Spanish tortillas. Basically they are composed of a simple dough which is rolled out thin with scallions encompassed in the layers and then lightly fried on both sides.

I must admit that after going to one of my favorite restaurants, a Malaysian eatery, I became enamored with the idea of making my own roti. I found a basic recipe and even watched a YouTube video on how to roll it out, but alas my roti didn't pass the test. It was alright I suppose, but definitely not as good and flaky as in the restaurant and so I gave up and resigned myself to buying pre-made frozen roti and heating them up on the skillet.

Somehow when I saw this recipe it called out to me and made me forget my previous bad experience. I don't know why I thought this time would be different...maybe it was because the name was deceiving or because the pictures made it look so easy, I don't know. Either way it doesn't matter because looking back, I'm glad I decided to give it a go.

I'm not going to lie and pretend that I whipped these "pancakes" up in no time; it was time consuming. Ideally the time and effort spent on continuously rolling and re-rolling the dough should produce a layered, flaky effect. Unfortunately, I couldn't really achieve the desired level of flakiness but I don't think that the taste suffered as a result. Knowing this, I'll probably cut down on the extra rolling next time and do it all in one step.

The real reason why I know I'll make these again is because they tasted great with the dipping sauce. The scallions embedded within the pancake retained their crispiness even when flattened out and it was pronounced because of the gentle frying. The sauce also had the perfect Asian taste to it and you could tell it was specially designed to compliment the scallions in the pancake. Of course if planning to make these, I would definitely recommend eating them right away because they taste best fresh off the hot skillet.

Chinese Scallion Pancakes
Note: These directions reflect my new adaptation of shortened rolling time. In the original recipe, the toasted sesame oil and scallions were applied in two separate steps, with the coiling and rolling performed twice.

For the pancakes:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups thinly sliced scallions (green parts only)
  • Toasted sesame seed oil
  • Olive oil
For the dipping sauce:
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2-1 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red chili flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1/2 tsp grated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger (or a 1/4 tsp powdered) 
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  1. Whisk together the dipping sauce ingredients and adjust for any preferences. Set aside. 
  2. Blend together the flour and water, using a food processor or mixer, until a smooth dough forms. Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl covered with a damp towel. Let it sit for about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead a few times on a lightly floured surface, then separate it into four separate balls. Keep one out on the counter and cover the remaining three with the towel.
  4. Roll out the first ball of dough into the thinnest, roundest shape possible. Place about a tablespoon of the toasted sesame oil in the center and use a brush to distribute it evenly over the entire surface of the dough, adding more oil if needed. 
  5. Sprinkle a handful of scallions evenly across the entire surface of the dough. 
  6. Roll up the dough tightly so that it forms a long, thin cylinder. Coil the cylinder into a round shape, like a snail shell, and gently tuck the end underneath. 
  7. Carefully flatten the dough and roll it out again into a thin, round pancake. Set it aside and repeat with the remaining three pieces of dough.
  8. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet big enough to fit one pancake over medium-high heat. Working one at a time, place the pancake onto the skillet and fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side. 
  9. Use a pizza cutter to cut each pancake into wedges and serve immediately with the dipping sauce and any extra chopped scallions if leftover.

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