Taiwanese Scallion Pancake | 蔥油餅, Cōng You Bˇıng

Crispy, soft and flaky scallion (spring onion) pancakes are a popular street food in Taiwan. Made from a wet, unleavened dough rather than a batter, they are often eaten for breakfast, but can be enjoyed at any time of the day, with or without an egg. Fried fresh for each customer, vendors usually roll them up and pop them into a paper bag with the top sticking out, ready to eat.

This recipe is from Made in Taiwan by Clariss Wei, published by Simon and Schuster.

Read our detailed book review of Made In Taiwan.

Scallion Pancake

Clarissa provides the following Photography note to describe the image: “The scene in this photograph reflects what breakfast might have looked like in an old military house—the residences that veterans like Yu-Chu were put in when they first arrived on the island. Built out of wood with very low windows, these homes were meant to be temporary accommodations and were quite small and cramped in order to save money on materials. Most of them have been torn down by now. Ryan, the photographer for this cookbook, also grew up in a military village and drew on his memories to style this photo.”

Please be aware that the recipe uses American all purpose flour, and you may need to adjust the proportion of water and dough if you use British plain flour or Taiwanese flour.

Scallion Pancake

Scallion Pancakes | 蔥油餅, Cōng You Bˇıng

At nearly a century old, Tung Yu-Chu 董玉珠 dresses impeccably every time he leaves the house with a neatly ironed shirt and shiny, polished shoes, a habit from his military days. Born in 1934 in Zhangjiakou, Hebei, China, he came to Taiwan at the age of 16 as an air force soldier and was stationed on Kinmen, a Taiwanese-owned island just four miles off the coast of the Chinese mainland, at the height of the Chinese Civil War. He remembers the bombs that were lobbed over by the Communists every other day and says surviving was just a matter of luck.

Like many other men who came over with the armed forces, Yu-Chu moved to Taiwan with the hopes of eventually returning home. But history had other plans. Yu-Chu ended up falling in love and marrying a local Taiwanese woman, and he never got an opportunity to see his hometown ever again, even when cross-strait family visits finally opened up in 1987. Yet after all these years, he still vividly remembers the food of his northern Chinese hometown, a cold, dry region resplendent with thick, scallion pancakes; hearty dumplings; and dreamy, cloud-like baos. A prolific home cook in his younger days, he re-created the flavors of his heritage entirely from memory, and this is his recipe for scallion pancakes. He can no longer cook at his advanced age, but he spelled out the instructions for this dish in meticulous, handwritten calligraphy for his family as a keepsake.

I made a couple of adjustments to the original recipe. Because American all-purpose flour is milled differently than Taiwanese all-purpose flour, the proportion of water to dough is different. Yu-Chu’s original recipe also contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), which I’ve omitted because while a sprinkle of MSG can go a long way, it’s completely optional and admittedly not for everyone. The use of lard is mandatory, though, because according to Yu-Chu, “it really wouldn’t be a scallion pancake otherwise.”

Servings 4 pancakes
Author Clarissa Wei / Ivy Chen

Ingredients

  • 2 scallions (spring onions), minced
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) boiling water
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 ml) room-temperature water
  • 1 tablespoon +2 teaspoons lard or unsalted butter, divided, softened
  • 4 teaspoons canola (rapeseed) or soybean oil, divided, plus more for frying

Recipe Notes

Please be aware that the recipe uses American all purpose flour, and you may need to adjust the proportion of water and dough if you use British plain flour or Taiwanese flour.

Instructions

  • Spread the scallions out evenly on top of a paper towel–lined plate. Air dry them for at least 30 minutes. This gets rid of excess moisture and prevents the scallions from weighing down the pancakes later. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the all-purpose flour and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Gradually pour in the boiling water, stirring as you add it. Pour in the room-temperature water and mix everything together until it forms a shaggy dough. Add 1 tablespoon of the lard, then knead the dough with your hands until it forms a solid mass and is completely smooth, about 3 minutes. (Alternatively, churn the dough in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment on low speed for about 2 minutes.) The dough should be soft and slightly gummy. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  • Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces; the pieces should weigh about 103 g each. Flatten each piece with your palm and with a rolling pin, shape the dough into 4 round discs, each measuring 9 inches (23 cm).
  • In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 2 teaspoons of the lard and the remaining . teaspoon salt. With a pastry brush, brush the seasoned lard mixture on the dough discs. Evenly divide the scallions among each of the discs.
  • Tightly roll up each disc into a thin log and pinch the seams and sides so that everything is sealed. Gently stretch one log so that it elongates into a 10 inch (25 cm) long rope. Place your palms face down on the rope, with one palm on each side. Swipe the right palm up and the left palm down at the same time so that the rope begins to twist onto itself. Take one end of the rope and begin to coil it up against itself like a snail shell. Pinch it closed and cover it with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

  • On a lightly floured surface, flatten a snail shell dough piece with the palm of your hand, then with a rolling pin, gently shape it into a round pancake, about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. Gently dust flour on the pancake as you roll so it doesn’t rip or get too oily. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

  • Heat a well-seasoned skillet over medium heat, and then swirl in . Teaspoon of the oil. When the oil is hot and begins to shimmer, put a scallion pancake in the pan, and cook until dark golden brown spots appear on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Lift up the pancake with tongs, add ½ teaspoon more oil to the pan, flip the pancake, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining scallion pancakes, adding more oil in between batches. Remove from the heat and enjoy immediately. Uncooked pancakes can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. To reheat, cook the pancakes in a well-oiled pan on medium heat until warm, about 5 minutes.

You can find more Taiwanese content here.

You may also like to see all of our East Asian recipes.

 

Kavey Eats bought a copy of Made in Taiwan by Clarissa Wei when visiting Taiwan in October. Recipe and images from the book reproduced courtesy of Simon and Schuster. Styling and photography by Yen Wei and Ryan Chen. Home-cooking photography by Kavita Favelle.

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