Scallion pancakes (蔥油餅) is one of those traditional Chinese dishes that will please a crowd. In general, they are pan fried so that they get nice and crispy on the outside. The sign of a good scallion pancake are the flaky layers of dough. When I say flaky, I don’t mean buttery pie crust kind of flaky. Rather, when you rip open a scallion pancake, you should see thin, overlapping layers of dough. It gives the pancakes a light airy quality in the center.
It took me a while to figure out the best method for making scallion pancakes. In the past, I rolled out small balls of dough into a relatively thin circle, rolled that circle up into a tight log, and curled that circle into a snail-like shape. Then, I would roll out that curled dough into a thin circle again, and pan fried the pancakes (see my post here for the full recipe). Although the pancakes tasted fine, I still believed that I could come up with a better recipe. After watching many, many YouTube videos, I finally developed a better method for the recipe!
KEYS TO MAKING EXTRA FLAKY SCALLION PANCAKES
- Roll out the dough as thinly as possible: When you first roll the dough, you want to make sure to roll it out as thinly as possible. You almost want to be able to see through the dough to the surface underneath the dough. This helps create the thin, airy layers inside the pancake when you rip it open.
- Oil your work surface: Most recipes call for rolling out the dough on a floured surface, and that’s what I had done as well. However, I found that I can roll out the dough more thinly on an oiled surface. I found that the oil helps the dough grip onto the work surface, allowing you to roll out a thinner pancake.
- Gather the rolled out dough into a rope versus rolling it into a tight log: Many, many recipes that I’ve seen (including the one I previously created) direct readers to roll up the dough into a tight log after the initial rolling. I actually think this creates pancakes with a denser center. In this recipe, I want you to gently fold the dough into thirds, lengthwise, and then fold everything over again once more. You don’t need to be too precise with this. Then you gather all the dough as if it was a long rope that you then curl into a snail-like shape. You don’t need to curl the dough tightly either.
- The final rollout: Right before cooking the pancakes, you’ll take the curled-up dough and roll it out into a big thin pancake. Again, I find that rolling this out on an oiled surface will yield thinner pancakes.
ADDITIONAL COOKING NOTES
- Making the dough ahead: I usually prep the dough a day ahead. I place the kneaded ball of dough into a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl with 2 layers of plastic wrap: one layer that sits snugly right above the dough and another layer that covers the bowl on the top. This helps keep condensation from developing around the dough. You can keep the dough in your fridge for 1 to 2 days before you make the pancakes.
- Rolling the dough on a marble pastry board vs wooden board: I found that I can roll out the thinnest layers on a marble pastry board. However, the surface is very slippery, particularly at the beginning. It is much easier to roll out the dough on a wooden board because the dough grips onto the board more. I haven’t tried rolling it out on my countertop, but I imagine that it would be similar to my marble slab.
- Do not transfer the cooked pancakes to paper towel-lined plates: I know it’s customary to transfer fried foods to plates lined with paper towels, but don’t do it here. If possible, transfer them to a wire cooling rack or a plate. Placing hot pancakes onto a plate will cause the bottoms to steam up and soften.
MORE SIMPLE CHINESE RECIPES
VIDEO: WATCH HOW TO MAKE SCALLION PANCAKES
Flaky Scallion Pancakes with Shallots
- 300 g (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 185 g (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) water at room temperature
- peanut oil or canola for rolling dough and frying, see note 1
- 1/2 cup finely diced shallots, about 1 large bulb
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons five-spice powder, see note 2
Make the Dough
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Gradually pour in the water, stirring everything together with a fork or wooden spoon.
- Once the water is all absorbed by the flour, start kneading the dough together with your hands. When you have incorporated all the loose flour into the dough, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for another 6 to 7 minutes. The dough should be elastic and quite smooth on the top. To see if the dough has been kneaded enough, rip out a golf ball-sized piece of dough, and pull it apart gently, as if you are tugging the dough at 4 corners. You should be able to stretch the dough out enough so that the center is translucent without the dough ripping apart. One or two minor tears around your fingers is okay. Shape the dough into a ball.
- Lightly grease a bowl with oil and place the ball of dough inside. Cover it with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Prepare the Shallots
- Heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes, until they start to soften.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the cooked shallots into a bowl.
- Shape the Pancakes (use photos above for reference)
- Take the rested dough out of the bowl and divide it into 4 pieces, about 120g to 125g each. Shape each piece into a ball. Cover the balls of dough with a dry towel or piece of plastic wrap.
- Lightly grease your work surface with oil (can be a large wooden board or marble slab). Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. The dough should be thin enough that you can almost see the surface underneath. I never roll out a perfectly shaped rectangle, so do not worry if yours look lopsided. Also don’t sweat about any small tears you might create when rolling out the dough.
- Pour about 2 teaspoons of oil over the rolled out dough and use your hands to rub over the surface. Lightly dust the dough with about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder (I used this dusting wand). Sprinkle a quarter of the cooked shallots and sliced scallions over the dough. Fold the dough into thirds: grab the bottom length of the dough and fold it over the center of the dough, leaving a third of the dough unfolded. Next, grab the top third of the dough and fold it down over the center. Give everything one more fold. Don’t fold the dough too tightly—a little bit of air in between the folds is perfectly fine. Gather the dough together and give it a little tug on the ends to stretch out the dough just a little.
- Starting from one end, start curling the dough, creating a snail-like shape. You can either tuck the other end underneath the curled up dough or lay it on top. Repeat for the other remaining balls of dough, making sure to grease the work surface again if necessary.
Cook the Pancakes
- Lightly grease the work surface again. Take one of the curled up balls of dough and roll it out into a thin circle. The rolling might force out some of the shallots and scallions, and that’s okay. It happens to me all the time.
- Heat a 12-inch skillet with 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Transfer the pancake to the pan and cook it for 3 to 4 minutes, until the pancakes are golden brown, flipping about halfway through. Transfer the pancakes to a wire cooling rack. If you don’t have a rack, transfer the cooked pancakes to a plate.
- While one pancake is cooking, roll out the next one. Add more oil to the pan and cook the remaining pancakes. These scallion pancakes are best consumed while they’re still warm. You can tear them apart or cut them into small wedges. Serve on their own or my soy and vinegar dumpling sauce, sweet chili sauce, or chili oil.
- I also think using toasted sesame oil for inside the pancakes will give them nice nutty flavor. Personally, I don’t like frying the pancakes with sesame oil because I think the flavor of the oil will be too overpowering. Feel free to try it if you want to.
- My favorite brand of five-spice powder is the Taiwanese Wu Hsing brand, which I find only in Asian supermarkets. You can use another brand that you prefer.
- I often make this dough with my stand mixer. I usually use my dough hook attachment for mixing and let the mixer run on low for about 6 to 7 minutes.