Green Onion / Scallion Pancakes (蔥油餅)

This is a very traditional item available at street food vendors, typically from cities in Northern China. It’s savoury, aromatic, and has tons of flaky layers when you bite in. There are actually only 4 or 5 ingredients, but it is really the technique that is important to learn!

In a restaurant, they will typically deep fry the entire pancake to save time. However, for at home, I highly recommend that you avoid deep frying, and use a pan-fry technique. It takes a bit longer, but you will get a better texture and aroma.

I use a stand mixer to speed up the dough mixing process, but you can also use a hand mixer or a simple bowl and spatula. I highly recommend a stand mixer with a dough hook because it will make your life easier!

This recipe was prepared by me, and photographed by my daughter, Vanessa.

Notes:

  • You can use all-purpose white flour for this recipe, but if you can find it, try to use high protein flour (regular all-purpose has 13% protein, however some Asian markets carry a high protein flour that is 18%). This high protein flour will increase the glutenous, bouncy texture of of your green onion pancakes. I bought this flour from T&T Supermarket in Vancouver:

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  • Although this is called “green onion” pancake, you can include Chinese garlic chives, aka “gau choy” (韭菜) — it smells a little stinky, but tastes great!

gau-choy

  • Use great quality sea salt / Kosher salt — try to avoid using fine table salt as it’s difficult to control and will affect the taste of your final product

 

Ingredients

All-Purpose Flour, Divided 5 cups (Reserve 1 cup for kneading)
Warm Water 1 cup
Green Onions / Scallions, chopped 1 cup, packed
Gau Choy (Optional – if not using, increase green onions) ½ cup, packed
Kosher sea salt 2 tbsp
Vegetable Oil ¼ cup

Please note — there are many factors that will affect your dough, such as temperature, humidity, etc. Please use these photos as a visual guide and add water or flour accordingly. You can also increase the amount of green onions and gau choy if you really like it packed full!

Method

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  1. Prepare all of your green onions and gau choy — chop finely and set aside.

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2. The best technique for creating the right temperature of water would be to fill up 1/3 of what you need with boiling water, and 2/3 of what you need with cold water. Using your dough hook on low speed, add flour to your mixing bowl and slowly add 1 cup of water.

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3. Once mixed thoroughly, turn the dough out onto a very well-floured surface. The dough will be quite shaggy and wet, but don’t worry! The water will absorb into the flour and firm up. It’s very sticky, so I also recommend using a dough/bench scraper.

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4. You can use the excess flour liberally to help with the kneading process. Add more flour as needed as you fold the flour over, and use your bench scraper to aid in folding. You will knead for about 5 minutes to form a loose ball.

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5. Rest the dough ball for 30 minutes under a wet towel or wet paper towel to prevent it from drying out.

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6. Once your dough has rested for 30 minutes, knead again for approximately 10 minutes. You’ll notice the dough has gotten much firmer and will have a bouncier appearance. Form another round ball (ends tucked underneath) and rest again for 10 minutes under a wet towel or wet paper towel. Note that I am very liberal with the use of additional flour.

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7. Once your dough ball has rested, you’ll want to divide it into about 10-12 individual 8″ pancake portions. The best technique is to roll it out into a longer, log shape and slice it with your bench scraper:

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8. You can use a wet towel to cover all of your portions while you are preparing each individual pancake. Take one individual portion and roll it out flat. I recommend using a thinner diameter rolling pin for this as a traditional Western-style rolling pin is a bit too heavy, although it will still work:

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9. Drizzle a small amount of vegetable oil onto the top of the pancake. You can use either a pastry brush, or you can slowly fold up the bottom of the pancake across the top of the pancake to spread the oil. This technique allows you to use the pancake itself to spread the oil. Either technique will work!

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10. Once you have a nice coating of oil, add a small amount of your green onion / gau choy mixture, and sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt.

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11. Starting from the bottom, tightly roll your pancake:

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12. Once rolled up (like a rolled-up carpet), you’ll form it into a round, snail shape. Use water to seal the end of the “tail”, pressing the tail into the dough. This is the part of the technique that will give you the many flaky and delicious layers within your green onion pancake.

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13. You might find it is difficult to roll this snail shape out immediately. I like to set one aside, work on the next one, and then return back to it to roll it out into its final pancake shape. Use your rolling pin to gently roll it flat — you will notice there are many creases from your snail shape. That is okay! You want this to create lots of layers.

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14. I also recommend cutting pieces of parchment paper to separate each pancake, otherwise they will all stick together when you stack them. Because you probably will not be eating all of the pancakes in one sitting, I highly recommend freezing them. You can use a large, Ziploc freezer bag with the parchment paper separating each pancake. You can also use a vacuum sealer to seal the stack of pancakes which will keep them even longer!

Now… you are ready to cook!

15. Heat up a well-seasoned skillet (or a non-stick pan) over medium heat with a splash of vegetable oil. Put your pancake into the skillet, and cover to cook. You’ll want to trap the heat in the skillet for the first few minutes. The green onion and gau choy are raw, so you want to utilize the heat for about 5 minutes to cook through. Ensure the heat isn’t too high because you don’t want to burn your pancake. Flip, and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt and continue to cook. In total, each pancake will take about 10 minutes. Slice into quarters, and serve!

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Look at all of these flaky layers! All of the rolling and hard work will make it worth it:

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