Cōngyóubǐng (Scallion Pancakes)
This’s one of those dishes that’s made its way around the world, but it’s a snack with a bunch of regional variation. What’s usually served abroad is, from what I can tell, the northern Chinese variety – that is, the kind that’s large, layered with a scattering of scallions, and’s cut into wedges. The best cōngyóubǐng (scallion pancakes) are crispy and browned on the outside and multilayered and delicately chewy inside. the Shanghai street food variety. It’s a more ‘personal-sized’ pancake… pan-fried in oil till crisp, then baked to dry it out and drain the excess oil. It’s layered just like the Northern style, but’s wonderfully golden brown and nice and crisp.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups water near boiling
- 1 cup scallions green stem only sliced very thin
Yousu ‘Seasoned Roux':
- 5 tbsp Lard or peanut oil
- 2 1/2 ounces flour or rice flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp Five Spice Seasoning
- Form the dough. Mix in that teaspoon of salt in with the flour, and make a little ‘well’, almost like you were making pasta. Then, take your hot water and add it in bit-by-bit, ladle-by-ladle, aiming for the dry parts. This’s done to make sure that all the dough gets some of that hot water action. Roughly mix this together with chopsticks.
- Knead the dough, then cover and let it relax for ~30 minutes If you got a stand mixer, awesome. Hook attachment, speed one, eight minutes, fin. I know not everyone does though, so if you’re doing this by hand knead it for about ten minutes til things’re no longer sticking to the bowl or your hands. Cover with a damp towel, and let the dough relax.
- Thinly slice your small mountain of scallions. Again, make sure these guys’re completely dry.
Yousu Seasoned Roux
- Make the yousu ‘seasoned roux’ mixture. Mix the tbsp of salt in with the ~10 tbsp of flour, make a little ‘well’ again, and toss the five spice in the middle of the well. Heat up your lard or oil up to a blistering 400F, then pour it into the flour/salt/five spice bowl. Everything’ll bubble up in a real satisfying way, stir it real well to make sure everything’s completely incorporated.
- Portion out the dough into eight 1/2 cup pieces. Oil up a work surface (an oiled work surface is way easier than a floured one here), and roll this guy out into a bit of a ‘log’ shape. Cut into eight pieces.
- Form the pancake. Ok, this and the next step are a bit tricky. If you wanna make this I heavily encourage you to check out 2:28 in the video for a visual and a more detailed explanation… it’s really hard to explain the hand motions in writing, so for these two steps I’m basically just gunna give an outline here: (1) roll it into a ~six inch long ‘log’ (2) press down on the log to flatten it (3) take the log and slap it against the table 2-4 times until it’s about ~10 inches long (4) use the palm of your hand to flatten it again until it’s about 4 inches wide.
- Roll the pancake. Ditto here: (1) spread one tbsp of the yousu ‘seasoned roux’ mixture on the pancake, leaving a little room on the edges and putting a touch more on the side closest to you (2) place a huge handful of scallions on the side closest to you (3) pull back on the side closest to you a little and roll it over the scallions (4) stretch and fold the edges in – you’ll get some extra loose scallions, this’s normal (5) roll it again (6) stretch and fold the edges again (7) use your other hand to hold the end of the dough and stretch it a bit, roll it again (8) stretch and fold the edges again (9) put the remainder of the dough at a slight angle so that it’ll move towards one of the two sides when you roll up the remainder (10) roll up the remainder (11) swirl it around what’s now become your ‘top’ (12) pinch the very end and slightly tuck it to make everything all pretty (13) flip to the other side (14) pinch a bit of the excess dough almost in the fashion you’d crimp a dumpling, but tuck it in instead (15) work around the bottom, you’ll prolly have to do ~eight ‘pinch and tucks’ (16) use your hand to flatten.
- Begin frying the pancake, press down to flatten, then flip and work through it, pressing/rolling it out thinner. With a flame at medium, pour enough oil to get a depth of about 1cm in your pan. Once the oil reaches about 350F, add in the pancake. Let it chill there for about 30 seconds, then smash it down and flip. Now with the spatula, press it from the center out to ‘roll’ it thinner.. turn 90 degrees, and repeat. Continue until the pancake is even and about a half inch thick… and flip.
- Let the pancake fry for ten minutes, flipping at least four more times. Once you get the hang of it, this’s when you’d start putting more pancakes on – I like working ~2-3 at a time. Feel free to be restless with your flipping… this ain’t a burger, flip whenever you feel like it but at least four more times. After ten minutes, these guys should be nice and golden brown.
- Put the pancakes in a pre-heated 350F oven for ten minutes. Again, preferably ya can find a way to macguiver a way to keep these in an upright position to allow the excess oil to more easily drain out.
"mthmchris, that wrapping job seems complicated as all hell, and your ‘pressing and rolling’ method while frying seems like the ravings of a lunatic. Surely there must be an easier way." Yep, totally. There is an easier way of course – the northern style scallion pancakes! The basic method is to (1) roll out the dough into a large circle (2) sprinkle some oil and cut scallions over it (3) roll it up (4) curl it up like a snake (5) roll it out again into a large flat circle (6) cook in a lightly oiled pan for 2-3 minutes each side and (7) cut into wedges. There’s tons of stuff online in English using that method. Here’s a recipe from the China Sichuan Food Blog, here’s a video recipe from Chef John on Food Wishes, and here’s a slight riff from Kenji over at SeriousEats. At first glance, we didn’t have too much to add to the body of stuff that’s already out there… and we prefer this style 🙂 I will say that the initial rolling for this Shanghai-style one isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it. I have stupid, oaf-like fingers (Steph’s usually the resident dumpling/wonton/pastry maker) and even I could figure it out. I mean, out on the street they can pump out one of em in like 5 seconds. Regarding the pressing, we found that rolling the pancake out before frying led to a denser, less airy result – negating at least part of the whole benefit of the Shanghai style haha. But yes, you could also roll it out then toss in in your frying pan… just make sure you’re not too rough on it and it’s not too thin.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!