Scallion Pancakes
Scallion pancakes.  Oh how I love thee.

These remarkable, little chewy, salty, scallion-y, layered disks of oily crunchy heaven completely stole my heart when I first had them my first year living in the city a decade and a half ago.  Often I would grab a late night snack of scallion pancakes and dumplings on my way home from rehearsal near midnight, back when my metabolism could handle such an indulgence.

On our honeymoon in China three years ago, I stumbled upon a mirage-like goddess making scallion pancakes on a narrow back street in Beijing.

Just look at the size of that pan!  We got a New York pizza slice-sized wedge (see the table on the right), wrapped loosely in wax paper, that the newlyweds pawed at, stopped dead on the street, like malnourished tiger cubs.  Who got the last bite should have gone in a prenup.

Too recently I discovered that these treasures are not all that difficult to make yourself--however dangerous it could be to embark upon in the privacy of your own home.  Proceed with caution.  The management is not responsible for the abandonment of any new year's resolutions.

But if only in honor of Chinese New Year, give these a try.  The rolled out, uncooked, pancakes can be layered in slightly floured wax paper and stored in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for about twenty-four hours, and then finished in a frying pan for two minutes on each side.  Do we hear a great Year of the Rabbit themed Super Bowl appetizer?

Makes three 8-10" pancakes.

I used half all-purpose flour and half cake flour. Cake flour, available in the baking aisle at the grocery store, has a lower gluten content, resulting in a dough that wasn't as tough, and I could roll out thinly much more easily, as it wasn't springing back as I tried to roll. However, you can make this entirely of AP flour, it might just be a little more challenging to roll out thin.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 cup warm water
sesame oil, about 3 teaspoons
1/2 cup scallions, sliced thin
peanut or canola oil, for frying

Combine flours together. Add water, either in a well in the middle of the flours, or in a stand mixer with a dough hook, and work to evenly combine. Knead for about three minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the ball of dough into a slightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rest for about thirty minutes.

Divide dough into three equal pieces (or more depending on the size of pancake you wish). Roll one piece of dough out into a circle, as thinly as possible.

Brush one side of rolled out dough with a very thin layer of sesame oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and scatter scallions evenly and liberally over the dough, making sure to get the edges.

Starting at the edge, carefully roll dough in one direction, encompassing the scallions, until you have a long rope.

Coil the rope (think: cinnamon bun) into a tight bundle.  (Look at the large beehive-like coils on the table on the left with the man in the photo of Beijing earlier in the post.) Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for about thirty minutes.

After they've rested, flatten the coil slightly with your hand.

Roll the disk with a rolling pin, until it is an even circle about 8-10" in diameter.

Heat a tablespoon of peanut or canola oil in a pan over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers. Gently place the pancake in the pan, laying it away from you as you put it in--so you don't get splashed with oil. Fry gently for about two minutes on both sides until golden brown. Drain briefly on a paper towel.

Cut into wedges. Serve warm with a dipping sauce of soy sauce infused with slices of fresh ginger.

Scallions: Eating within a 10 foot radius

DIY Scallions: 10 days (background) and 36 hours (foreground) of growth.


Full disclosure:  in season or not, I use a lot of scallions.  I love their subtle oniony vibe, pop of color, and exotic feel.  I love their tubey shape and making thin cuts on an extreme angle for geometric garnishes.  I love that they are equally useable raw or cooked.  I LOVE them in my Homemade Scallion Pancakes and David Chang's Scallion Ginger Sauce from his Momofuku cookbook.

So, each summer I faithfully devote an entire garden bed to growing my own scallions.  And each year it is wildly unsuccessful.  The seeds are microscopic, making it insanely difficult to evenly distribute them in the ground.  When they do start to sprout up, in awkward clusters, they are the tiniest green threads, impossible to see and differentiate from the weeks that are intent on choking them out.  But every year, I try, try again.

So, cut to me on the subway a couple of weeks ago, overhearing a conversation between two adorable twenty-something hipsters, waxing poetic about the treasures on pinterest.

Now I have not really explored pinterest, other than to see some referring pages that have come into my blog.  And I have some mixed feelings about it from first glance.  However, what I heard the DIYers going on and on about was the "growing scallions thing" on pinterest.

Ok, I was curious and googled as soon as I got above ground.

Apparently the scallion thing that has swept across the pinterestsphere, is the lesson that you can regenerate whole, perfectly edible scallions from the bottom tips that are usually cut off and tossed away.

Yep.  And I tried it.

And yep.  It works!

Just place the root ends of scallions upright in about an inch of water and put in a sunny spot.  In twenty four hours you will see some growth, and in just under a week they'll be full grown again.  The only upkeep is to change the water every other day or so, which also helps cut down on any oniony smell.  You can repeat the process three or four times with the same scallion tip.

So excited to have a much more successful way of growing my own.  And thrilled to add another vegetable to my eating local list--all year round.  My apologies to the national scallion growers council.


Garlic Scape and Herb Pancake


Move over scallions.  I may have to cheat on you.

My love affair with dim sum scallion pancakes is no secret.  There are few times I can think of when they don't appeal to me.  (or make me start to go all Pavlovian as I even type the words.)  Though green and doing very well, the scallions planted in my garden are still about the size of glorified dental floss and won't be serving up any exotic savories for a few weeks.

However, we do have garlic scapes!  And herbs!  Lots of both!

Scallions?  Who needs scallions?

While not exactly a necessity, (more of an insatiable craving), mother invention shone down and offered up this bright, summery, mildly garlicky, herby, southeast Asian-inspired perfection on a greasy paper towel.  There is a tremendous (and tremendously cheap) hole-in-the-wall dumpling shop in NYC's Chinatown, to which I make frequent pilgrimages.  Alongside their dumplings, they have a monstrous cast iron pan in which they make a very similar sesame pancake.  You can get a pizza-slice-sized wedge "stuffed with veggies" for $1.25, which is split laterally and crammed with shredded carrot and chopped cilantro leaves and stems.  There was definitely some inspiration from there in this as well.

Give these a try, using all that summer is offering up right now.  Shredded zucchini, carrot or beet, torn squash blossoms, thyme, sage, thinly sliced chard could all be welcome additions.  Fried dough + farm fresh herbs and produce = What could possibly be bad?


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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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