The scallion pancakes of my childhood were small, crispy discs cooked by street vendors on a large round griddle—perfect for holding in one hand and eating on the go. In my middle-school years, I spent afternoons wandering the narrow streets of Shanghai with my friends, and whenever our after-school adventures led us near a scallion pancake vendor, we couldn’t resist that alluring scallion oil aroma. Even though one pancake cost only a handful of pennies, I rarely had money to spare, and more than once my friends chipped in so I wasn’t left out of the fun. It was one of my greatest simple pleasures, and I’m forever grateful for their thoughtfulness and friendship. Here, I’ve recreated that classic scallion pancake, just as I remember it. —Judy Leung
- 1 1/2 cups (210g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
- Neutral oil, for shaping dough and cooking
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup finely chopped scallions (from about 4 scallions), white and green parts, patted dry before chopping
In the bowl of a stand mixer ﬁtted with the dough hook, add the 1½ cups ﬂour. With the mixer on low speed, slowly stream in the boiling water. Periodically stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to push the ﬂour toward the center of the bowl, until the dough hook has worked in all the ﬂour. When a shaggy dough has formed, gradually add the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough lifts off the sides of the bowl. Give the dough about 1 minute to absorb the liquid after each addition of water. Transfer the dough to a clean surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes, until soft and smooth. If the dough is sticky or tacky, add more ﬂour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough smooths out. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and form each piece into a smooth ball. Brush the dough balls with a little oil to prevent them from drying out, then cover them with an overturned bowl. Let rest at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes.
To test if the dough is properly relaxed, use your palm to ﬂatten a dough ball. If the dough stays ﬂat and doesn’t bounce back, it’s ready to be rolled. (Be patient because relaxed dough will be easier to work with and yield a softer pancake.) Brush a clean work surface and a rolling pin lightly with oil. Transfer a dough ball to the oiled surface and roll it out into a thin 4 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush it with a thin layer of oil and sprinkle it evenly with a pinch of salt (about ⅛ teaspoon) and 2 tablespoons of the chopped scallions. Roll the pancake lengthwise into a tight, long cigar with the seam side up. Press the seam closed so no scallion bits are poking out. Roll the tube up into a spiral—like a snail shell—to form a disc. Tuck the loose ends under the disc, then brush the top with some oil and repeat these steps with the remaining 7 dough balls, oiling the work surface and rolling pin as needed. Finally, roll each disc into a pancake 4 to 5 inches in diameter. (A 4-inch pancake will be thicker and chewier; a 5-inch pancake will be ﬂatter and crispier.)
Heat a large cast-iron pan or nonstick pan over medium heat. (If using cast iron, preheat until it just starts to smoke; if using a nonstick pan, simply heat it until hot.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, or enough to coat the bottom of the pan in a generous layer (to get even coloring and crispy results.) Add 2 pancakes at a time to the pan, and cook each side for 3 to 4 minutes, until they’re an even golden brown. Repeat with the remaining three batches of pancakes. (Don’t be tempted to rush the process; higher heat levels will burn the pancakes before the dough cooks through!)
Reprinted with permission from The Woks of Life by Bill Leung, Kaitlin Leung, Judy Leung, and Sarah Leung, copyright © 2022. Photographs by Sarah Leung and Kaitlin Leung. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. To purchase the book, follow this link on indiebound.com, where you can buy your copy through a local independent bookseller.