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05/10/2017

~ Savory Chinese-Style Scallion Pancakes (Flatbread)~

IMG_9065Crispy and flaky on the outside, tender and ever-so-slightly chewy on the inside, served hot out of the skillet or reheated in the toaster oven the next day, scallion pancakes are one of my favorite Chinese appetizers.  Unlike our Western pancake, which is made by pouring a thickened batter into a skillet, the scallion pancake is made with an unleavened bread dough -- a kneaded mixture of flour, very hot water and salt which gets rolled into the shape of a pancake.

In China, scallion pancakes are both a street food and a restaurant item.  They are on the menus of Chinese-American eateries specializing in dim sum and/or dumplings.  There is little printed history on the subject, but, it's a fact that Buddhist monks (who influenced cooking throughout China and East Asia) discovered gluten (the protein found in foods processed from wheat, barley and rye flour) in the 7th century (they were vegetarians trying to find a protein substitute for meat). A humble, unleavened, scallion- fennel-green- or garlic-chive- laced flatbread made from their elastic, chewing-gum-like invention is an easy scenario to imagine.  It makes logical sense.

There is a tale they tell in China that suggests pizza is a spin-off of the scallion pancake.  It's said that Marco Polo missed scallion pancakes so much when he went back to Italy, he tried to find a chef willing to make them.  He managed to persuade a chef from Naples to do it, and after half a day without success, Marco Polo suggested putting the filling on top rather than inside the dough, which, by chance, created a dish praised by everyone -- leading to the invention of the pizza. Historical evidence does not support this story, but, I thought it interesting enough to pass along.

Be not afraid. In the scheme of culinary things, these are easy.

IMG_8972Scallion pancakes = hot water dough + sesame oil + scallions.

Be not afraid.  In the scheme of culinary things, even if you have no idea what scallion pancakes are but want to try to make them, these are really easy.  Why?  Chinese hot water dough (which is used to make these pancakes, dumpling wrappers and other Chinese pastries) is dough made with hot water, instead of cold water.  It renders it remarkably easy to work with, meaning:  unlike leavened or unleavened cold water dough, it won't spring back very much when it gets rolled out. I'm making it even easier for you, by mixing and kneading the dough in the food processor.

IMG_8956For four scallion pancakes (yield 8 appetizers each pancake):

2  cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup very hot-to-boiling water

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  cup sesame oil (for brushing on the rolled pancakes)

2  cups, thinly-sliced scallions, white and light green parts only (for scattering on the rolled and oiled pancakes)

peanut oil, for frying pancakes

IMG_8957 IMG_8964 IMG_8968 IMG_8977~Step 1.  Place flour and salt in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 5-10 rapid on-off pulses, incorporate the salt into the flour.  On stovetop or in microwave, heat 1 cup of water to steaming or boiling.  With processor motor running, in a slow, thin stream, add water, until the flour forms a ball of dough.  Stop adding water the moment it forms a ball -- this will happen after adding about 3/4 cup of water.  If it doesn't happen, add additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it does.  Continue kneading ball of dough in processor 45-60 revolutions. Remove dough from processor, place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and rest for 1 full hour.

IMG_8998~ Step 2.  While dough is resting, slice scallions as directed.  Ready a pastry board, a bit of bench flour and a small rolling pin (or any rolling pin).  You'll also need a pastry brush for brushing sesame oil on rolled pancakes, and, place a 10" nonstick skillet on the stovetop too.

~ Step 3.  Uncover dough, divide and form dough (1 total pound) into 4, 4-ounce balls, then, recover it.

IMG_9005 IMG_9011 IMG_9012 IMG_9016~Step 4.  Working one ball of dough at a time (keep others covered while working), place ball of dough on a lightly floured pastry board and roll into a 7 1/2"-8" circle.  Lightly brush the surface of the circle with about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, then, sprinkle 1/2 cup scallions over the top.

IMG_9039 IMG_9021 IMG_9045 IMG_9051 IMG_9029~Step 5.  Tightly roll the pancake up (jelly-roll-style) into a log, tuck the two open left and right ends underneath the roll, then, spiral the log up like a snail, tucking the loose end underneath.  Using your hands, compact the disk, then, using your fingertips, gently press down on the surface.  Using the rolling pin, roll again to form a 7 1/2"-8" circle. It's normal to have a few scallions pop out during the rolling process.

Note:  Throughout the rolling process (Steps 4 & 5), keep the board lightly coated with a sprinkling of bench flour.  Not a lot -- just enough to be sure the pancake is at no time sticking to the board.  

IMG_9031 IMG_9034 IMG_9060~ Step 6.  On stovetop, heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil  + 1 teaspoon sesame oil in skillet over medium heat.  With the aid of a large spatula, lift and place the pancake in the hot oil and fry on medium heat, until golden brown on both sides, turning only once, about 3 minutes on the first side and 1-1 1/2 minutes on the second side.  Using the spatula, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and cool 30-60 seconds prior to slicing into 8 wedges and serving with dipping sauce (See Cook's Note below). Repeat process with remaining 3 balls of dough, adding a bit of additional oil to pan each time.

Slice each pancake into 8 wedges & serve w/dipping sauce:  

IMG_9075These are addictive.  Everybody can eat just one (8 wedges):

IMG_9080Savory Chinese-Style Scallion Pancakes (Flatbread):  Recipe yields 4 pancakes and 32 appetizers (8 pieces per pancake).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 1-cup measuring container; plastic wrap; pastry board; small rolling pin; pastry brush; 10" nonstick skillet; large spatula

IMG_8987Cook's Note:  To make the dipping sauce, in a 1-cup measuring container, stir together:

4  tablespoons soy sauce

4  tablespoons rice vinegar

2  tablespoons sliced scallions

1  tablespoon ginger paste

4  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon sesame oil

Recipe yields:  3/4  cup dipping sauce.  Cover and store in refrigerator up to 3-4 days.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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