It’s one of my foundational food memories: My little-kid legs sticking to the red vinyl of the restaurant chair, my stomach growling, as I wait eagerly for the dim sum cart to clatter by piled high with my favorite—Scallion Pancakes, flaky pastry rounds loaded with green onions and deep-fried to a crispy golden brown.
Back then, my family used to head across the bay from Berkeley to San Francisco regularly for dim sum. We’d tuck into unassuming little neighborhood spots like Dol Ho or Hang Ah in Chinatown, Good Luck in “the other Chinatown” in the inner Richmond district, or, when we were really lucky, the original Yank Sing on Battery Street. Here the dim sum was top notch and the setting comparatively upscale, both of which were reflected in the price.
The well-worn and beautifully retro Classic Deem Sum: Recipes from Yank Sing Restaurant sits on my cookbook shelf to this day. Published in 1985, it’s a fairly thin volume that covers the cuisine’s basics—fluffy steamed buns filled with barbecued pork, translucent har gow dumplings stuffed with plump shrimp, steamed pearl balls, deep fried shrimp toast, red bean paste-filled sesame balls, and more. Sadly, scallion pancakes are absent from its pages.
I figured they must be a pain to make, so I never bothered hunting down a recipe. Then I went to an event at Parties That Cook® in San Francisco and discovered how incredibly easy scallion pancakes are to make.
Unlike the short pastry dough we are more familiar with in the US, which uses ice cold water and fat, this one uses boiling water and melted (or liquid) fat. This makes for a less finicky, very uniform, and pliable-yet-sturdy dough with an extra dose of crispness in the finished product.
A bit of sesame oil and a whole lot of thinly sliced scallions add flavor to the dough. Serve the scallion pancakes with a savory, tangy, and spicy dipping sauce made by mixing equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar with a dash of chili oil and a few scallion slices.Print
These flaky, golden brown pancakes make a great side dish for saucy dishes, a perfect base for sunnyside up fried eggs with runny yolks, or an addictive snack. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that most of the ingredients are pantry staples, so I can make this any time the craving strikes. Serve them with a savory, tangy, and spicy dipping sauce made by mixing equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar with a dash of chili oil and a few scallion slices.
2 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided, plus additional if needed for dough and for rolling
3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup vegetable or peanut oil, plus 4 to 6 tablespoons additional for frying
2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine 2 ½ cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and the salt. Stir to mix. Add the boiling water and process until well combined. Knead the dough with the mixer or food processor for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough is well combined and smooth. If the dough is too sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. If it is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dishtowel and let rest for 1 hour.
In a small bowl, stir together the ¼ cup vegetable or peanut oil, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Mix to a smooth, thin paste.
Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and roll each into a smooth ball. Dust your work surface with flour. Press out one ball of dough into a flat patty and then, using a rolling pin, roll it out as thinly as you can, about 6 inches in diameter.
Brush the oil-flour paste over the top of the round of dough and then sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of sliced scallions over the top, leaving a ½-inch border clear around the edges. Roll the dough round up jellyroll-style into a cylinder. Roll the cylinder up in a flat spiral like a cinnamon roll. Cover the spiral with plastic wrap while you roll and shape the remaining 7 dough balls.
Sprinkle more flour on your work surface, and roll out each spiral of dough out to a circle about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. You can roll out the rest of the pancakes and keep them in a stack with squares of parchment paper in between, or you can roll out the next pancake while one is in the skillet.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet (I like cast iron for this) over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, place a pancake in the pan and cook for 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Cook all of the pancakes. Serve hot, either whole or cut into wedges, with a dipping sauce made of equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar with a dash of chili oil and a few scallion slices.
- This scallion pancakes recipe is easy and uses ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen. For a more authentic version, use melted lard or chicken fat in place of the vegetable oil in the paste when forming the pancakes. (Just between you and me, melted butter would also probably be delicious here.)
- You can absolutely mix and knead the dough for these scallion pancakes by hand, rather than in a stand mixer or food processor, but it will be very hot because of the boiling water. You’ll need to wait several minutes for it to cool.