In a stroke of bad luck today, I bit into this crispy, homemade scallion pancake today. Delicious. But when I started chewing, I noticed something wasn’t quite right with my left molar filling. The more I chewed, the more the pancake would stick to the split, separating the tooth from the filling and making me feel like I had a loose pebble in my mouth. I’ll spare you any more gory details, but this scallion pancake-cracked tooth ended up costing me an emergency root canal and crown. But I’m not holding a grudge against scallion pancakes, which are still one of my favorite things to eat. Here’s how to make your own at home (just don’t eat these when you have a suspicious molar or filling):
Homemade Scallion Pancakes:
• Mix flour (A half cup makes about two pancakes) and a little bit of hot water (yes hot, this par cooks the flour so it cooks faster when you pan fry it on the stove) until the dough just starts to stick together into a ball.
• Knead dough for 30 seconds to one minute with the heel of your hand. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. If the dough is too dry, add more warm water.
• Place warm dough in a bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
• Dust your surface and rolling pin with flour and lay your dough down. Does it feel dry? Sticky? Add more flour or lukewarm water accordingly.
• Cut your dough ball into portions (a lemon-size ball of dough yields about one salad plate-sized pancake).
• Take one portion and roll it out into as thin a sheet (think phyllo or crepe) as possible. It doesn’t matter what shape (square, round, amoeba) your sheet looks like, just make sure the dough is as thin as you can make it (to create the flaky, crispy layers in the pancake). Don’t worry if you get a couple of holes in your super thin giant sheet. And don’t worry about patching the holes–they won’t matter in the end.
• Spread a nickel-sized dollop of oil (I usually use olive, but canola or grape seed would work too) across the sheet of pancake dough with your fingers, making sure to leave about a half inch border around the sheet oil-free. The sheet should be moist but not saturated or dripping with oil. If the nickel-sized amount of oil wasn’t enough, feel free to add more. There’s nothing worse than a dry pancake! However, there can be too much of a good thing. Too much oil will prevent the flaky layers from sticking together.
• Sprinkle about a pinch to a quarter teaspoon of salt across the surface of your oil pancake sheet. If you like your scallion pancakes on the saltier side, feel free to add more salt.
• Sprinkle about one to two teaspoons of finely chopped scallions (green and white parts of the stalk) across the salted and oiled surface. Mix everything around a little so it’s pretty evenly distributed.
• Start rolling your sheet up from one end across to the other to form a tube shape. The tube shouldn’t be loose, but you don’t need to be too crazy about rolling it tightly either. Some scallions may fall out. Just tuck them in the ends.
• Pinch the open ends of your tube shut with your fingers, being careful not to trap too much air in the tube.
• Roll the entire tube a little on your board so it feels secure. Then starting at one end, start twisting the tube until it coils in on itself. A cinnamon bun shape is okay, but if you can coil the tube tighter so it looks like a soft serve ice cream, that’s even better. Basically, the more coils you make, the more pancake layers you’ll get in the end.
• Press down on your bun/coil shape with your hand to flatten it. It should look like a small, round, thicker cousin to your usual scallion pancake. Use your rolling pin to continue to flatten your pancake until you reach the desired thickness. At this point, pancakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated or frozen for future use.
• To cook your scallion pancake (frozen pancakes do not need to be defrosted first), place it in a heated pan with some oil, turn on your heat down to medium low, and cover your pan.
• When the uncooked surface of your scallion pancake (the side facing up right now) changes color from white to yellow, flip your pancake. Don’t worry if the cooked side doesn’t look brown and crispy enough–you can always flip the pancake back to the first side after the second is done cooking. Since you par cooked the dough by using hot water and letting it rest, the pancake center will cook through before the outside crust gets burnt. Using cold water in that first step leaves you with burnt scallion pancakes that will still be raw in the center.
• On this second side, leave the cover off and push the pancake around in the pan every once in a while (my mom likes to do this with a pair of wooden chopsticks). This ensures that the entire surface gets golden and crispy (I forgot this pushing around step, which is why there are those sad, un crispy, white spots on my scallion pancake, above).
• When the bottom surface looks as golden as you’d like it to be, flip the pancake back over to the first side and brown that until you’re satisfied.
* Sometimes when I’m feeling super lazy, I’ll just mix up the oil, scallions, and salt in a bowl first. The I spoon the mixture on the sheet and spread it out in one step.