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Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Scallion Pancakes are a regular offering in Dim Sum restaurants. In Chinese they are called 蔥油餅 (Pinyin: cōng yóu bing), which translates as ‘Scallion Oil Cake’. I often order them when I am dining out, but I also make them at home quite frequently.

The typical scallion cake is basically a simple hot water dough incorporating sliced green onions that is then rolled in layers with some sort of oil or fat to achieve a characteristic flakiness. Beyond that, the essential recipe really only varies by the thickness of the finished cake and the amount of fat used in the final cooking. Some are a centimeter or so in thickness and really quite oily, but I prefer mine rolled fairly thin and pan fried with just a little fat…

The Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus a little extra for rolling)
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • ½ cup boiling water (more or less)
  • 1 Scallion sliced in very thin rings
  • Sesame Oil

The Method

Put the flour and salt into your food processor and blend on high, adding the boiling water a little at a time. At first, the flour will take on a granular appearance and then, all of a sudden, it will form a tight ball that spins around in the processor bowl along with the blades. The very instant this happens, stop adding water.

Knead the dough vigorously for 3 or 4 minutes to develop elasticity, adding flour as necessary until there is no stickiness and you have a smooth, dry-surfaced ball. Set the ball aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Next, divide the dough into two equal balls and roll out the first of these into a rough circle about 8 to 10 inches across. Sprinkle the rolling surface and the dough with additional flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

Drizzle about a tablespoon or so of oil on the pancake you have created, spread it out with a pastry brush to cover the whole surface, and then scatter half of the scallion rings evenly over all.

Now, starting at one side of the disc, roll the dough, cigar fashion, into a long ‘snake’.

Twist the elongated ‘snake’ from one end into a spiral disc and tuck the end underneath.

Sprinkling more flour as necessary, roll the spiral out into a flat cake. Set it aside and repeat the entire process with the second ball of dough. At this point, you can either proceed to cooking the pancakes right away or else lightly oil them and stack them between sheets of foil or wax paper for later use.

When you are ready to cook, heat a pan over a medium flame and add your cooking fat. You can use vegetable oil if you wish, but I prefer to use rendered pork belly fat as this adds an additional depth of flavor. Fry the pancakes in turn, flipping them as necessary, until they are cooked through and nicely golden on each side. If desired, you can also just partly cook the cakes and save then in the fridge for a final cooking later. Otherwise, cut into wedges (or leave whole) and serve immediately while still nice and hot.

The Verdict

To be honest, it is pretty hard to mess these up and, once you have done it once or twice, you can probably just about make pancakes in your sleep. The process of making the ‘snake’ and the spiral can be repeated several times if you like (oiling the rolled out cake each time) and the more times you do it, the more layers will be created and the flakier the cake will be. Personally, I find that a single time does an acceptable job.

If you are preparing the pancakes as an appetizer or dim sum dish, then you may want to serve a dipping sauce alongside as in the first picture. For this experiment, I just mixed a little soy sauce with some vinegar and a little minced chili but you can play around with whatever additions suit your fancy. Normally, though, I make these pancakes as a starch accompaniment for other dishes and don’t generally bother with a sauce.

In a future post, I will be using the same dough ingredients to prepare an interesting and delicious variation on the basic theme …


15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Madame Weebles #

    I love love love scallion pancakes. I never thought of making them myself, but dang, this does look quite straightforward.

    September 14, 2012
  2. I *just* discovered these delicious, savory pancakes earlier this year with a recipe using sesame seeds with the scallions and pre-made flour tortillas brushed with egg yolk before frying. I like this post making the dough from scratch and the rolling/spiral method to prepare! Wonderful!

    September 14, 2012
  3. Must give these a try. They look so good!

    September 14, 2012
  4. it looks like stuffed parathas we make in india.. looks delicious

    September 14, 2012
  5. Just can’t keep up with you! I never thought of making this…, though I love to eat! I only eat this 䓤油餅 at restaurants. You are too good…to be true!

    September 14, 2012
  6. Sounds great! 🙂

    September 14, 2012
  7. Love love love these! Thank you for the recipe and method!

    September 14, 2012
  8. Norma Chang #

    Have not made these in ages.

    September 14, 2012
  9. I love scallion pancakes! These look great.

    September 14, 2012
  10. These are one of my all-time favorite things. I tried making them for the first time last December and was shocked at how easy they are to make!

    September 14, 2012
  11. Udendeen #

    It looks very tasty. Feels like to enjoy …

    September 16, 2012
  12. Thank you for sharing this recipe, the pancakes truly look delicious! I’ll definitely try this out, maybe even with feta and spinach!

    October 10, 2013
  13. cmgifford #

    This is one of my favorite treats! The only thing I do differently, well besides using chopsticks so that I don’t dirty my food processor, is to place two of the patted “snails” together w/a bit more oil in between, then roll out one on top of the other to desired size. Peel apart and fry. My laziness shows. 😉 Thank you for sharing this!

    March 17, 2014
    • Actually, that technique is commonly used for ‘Mandarin’ pancakes…. the sort used for Peking Duck.

      March 17, 2014
      • cmgifford #

        John? Hi, I’m Cal. This is one of my favorite recipes…and yes, but I haven’t bought a fresh duck airing from a hook in many years. Thank you, for posting this recipe! 🙂 And I’m really enjoying your blog. It has been far too long since I got involved in the culture and language, (since leaving the military many years ago). It’s really wonderful that you take the time to do what you do here! ❤

        March 17, 2014

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