As I was frying up my green onion pancake this morning for breakfast, I realized two related things – that it’s Friday, and that September is almost over. Which means that I came *this* close to not writing up this month’s cooking adventure – which, if you haven’t guessed already, is about 蔥油餅, or green onion pancakes. The ones I’m currently eating as I type this up are the second attempt, as I made these first with my mom while she was still in California back in August. Side note: what is the difference between a scallion and a green onion or are they the same thing? Definitely also used to confuse “shallots” with “scallions” but I know now they are not the same thing and in fact shallots are quite delightful to cook with.
I got the basic dough recipe from Molly Yeh, where I’ve also made her rhubarb linzer cookies in the form of a star cookie with strawberry jam (that post is still unwritten). If you search “scallion pancake” on her website, though, the exact recipe isn’t there, but one for scallion pancake challah is, which also sounds yummy. Actually, that recipe isn’t even in that blog post, it’s just a post that directs you to another website to find the recipe.
I originally saw her making scallion pancakes on her show, Girl Meets Farm, during one of my binge watch phases (currently on Great British Bake Off, which I know I’m like two years too late on), so I watched the little segment of that episode like five times to try to remember the recipe. And then I went on Food Network to look for the recipe, and it’s still not accurate (to what is shown on the show, because she doesn’t put in baking powder). And then I was like, oh yeah, she said it’s the same dough recipe as the dumplings, so I went to look for the dumpling recipe and lo and behold, there it was. Although it’s still misleading because the ingredients call for “1/2 cup boiling water” when in reality it’s actually “1/2 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup cold water”. Why is it so hard to write a recipe??!!
Anyways, the point is, although the dough recipe is ridiculously simple, I wanted to make sure I had the water to flour to salt ratio correct, as well as the little tip about first mixing it with boiling water and then with cold water, so that the gluten can first get activated. At least I think that’s the rationale. I don’t know what the addition of baking powder would do, but I suppose next time I could try it with baking powder. I guess that’s the nice thing about videos instead of just plain written out recipes, since then you can see what the food is supposed to look like and they probably give extra tips or fun facts as they’re making the food, since they probably just can’t stay silent the whole time. But obviously I do not retain information well when it’s spoken to me so having a written recipe is easier than pulling up the video each and every time.
But now the ratio is written down in my own notes and I no longer have to log in to Food Network and fast forward past ads to look it up each time! Hooray!
As I said before, the dough recipe is super simple: 2 cups of flour to 1 cup of water, split into 1/2 cup of boiling water and 1/2 cup of cold water, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. In the kneading and rolling out, more flour will inevitably be added, but 2 cups is a good place to start. The way that Molly mixes and kneads it, the dough looks pretty smooth even before she lets it sit (for 20-30 minutes) but mine was still lumpy. And it was a bigger mess than hers was. After the dough sits for a while, the fun part of rolling it out and adding the green onions begins! I remember when I was little, we would repeat the layering process a few times, but doing it just once is sufficient.
You roll it out into a little circle, add the oil (when I made it with my mom, we used solid pork fat, but sesame oil works too), green onions, and a sprinkle of salt. Then you roll it up like a sleeping bag and pinch the ends so nothing spills out. Next, you roll it into a little snail spiral and tuck in the ends because the next step is to roll it all out again. The ends have a way of sliding out and ruining the spiral circle, so I like to start with that side to flatten it all out first.
And here is a handy gif in case you retain information better visually instead of through words. Finally you just lay them in a pan with oil, fry both sides until golden brown, and there you go! In Molly’s version, she serves them with a carrot maple syrup slaw, but I tend to like them either plain or with Sriracha, which is also my condiment of choice for scrambled eggs, if you were wondering. (If I ever write a food memoir I will title it, Why Is There Sriracha On My Laptop Screen? Recipes and Thoughts from a First Gen Taiwanese American Millennial)
No post about green onion pancakes would be complete without a shoutout to my favorite green onion pancakes ever, the ones that are sold across the street from my grandpa’s house in Yangmei, where I can carry a plate over and ask for a 蔥油餅 and a few 餃子 and carry the plate right back. The nice owners will sometimes add in an egg on top and I top it with lots of soy sauce and hot chili sauce. Sometimes they’ll offer to make me a whole bunch so I can freeze them and bring them back to America with me, but I have the feeling it won’t taste the same…