scallion-pancakes

The information superhighway is packed with claims of how easy it is to make scallion pancakes, a Chinese street vendor food. Not so fast. What’s easy are pa jun, the eggy Korean pancakes with minced alliums or vegetables added to the batter. Pa jun are similar to crepes and can be made in a matter of minutes — perfect when you suddenly find yourself in need of something hot, fried, and salty. Check out the New York Times’ recipe for details.

By contrast, scallion pancakes take at least an hour to make. The process involves kneading, resting, rolling, and twisting, followed by more resting and more rolling. But the result is a crispy, oniony, slightly chewy bread that takes hot, fried, and salty to a new level. Check out Seattle food writer Matthew Amster-Burton’s essay on scallion pancakes for a sense of all that is involved. Here’s my recipe, adapted for the bright green bundles of chives in the garden right now:

Chive Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour / ¼ tsp salt / scant 1 cup boiling water / 4 tsps sesame oil / ¼ cup finely minced chives

Mix flour and salt in a deep bowel then add water slowly, incorporating with a wooden spoon until the ingredients come together loosely. You may not need all of the water. Knead the dough into a ball, 1-2 minutes, then cover with a damp towel and rest for ½ hour.

Divide the dough into 4 portions. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a very thin square. Spread 1 tsp sesame oil across the rolled dough with your fingers. Sprinkle oiled surface with chives. Beginning at one edge, roll up the dough like you are rolling up carpet. This should make a rope of dough. Gently twist the rope a few times. Then, starting at one end, coil the dough in a circle, forming something like a cinnamon roll. Repeat with remaining portions of dough, and cover coiled dough with the damp towel and rest another ½ hour.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add vegetable oil when pan is nearly smoking. Lightly flatten the dough with a rolling pin into a pancake shape, taking care not to press out all of the air bubbles so the dough becomes completely flat. Place pancake in pan when oil is shimmering and cook 2-3 minutes per side, until browned and dough is slightly puffy. Cut into 8 triangular pieces and serve immediately with a dipping sauce made from 3 tbls soy sauce, 3 tbls water, 1 tsp rice vinegar, and sambal oelek to taste. Feeds 4 as an appetizer.

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