When we were in college, my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I used to order in Chinese food to our dorm room every week at the end of the semester. The cafeteria was closed Friday and Saturday nights. The problem sets would pile up. The city of Boston with its lights twinkling outside the dorm window seemed distant, the walk to a restaurant insurmountable. Ah, campusfood.com, how I loved you. General Gao’s vegetarian-chicken, some steamed dumplings, white rice, a Buddha’s delight. And scallion pancakes. Josh always ordered the scallion pancakes.
We outgrew the scallion pancakes around the same time we outgrew the college dorm. When we occasionally ordered Chinese take-out, we’d avoid them. Too greasy, too indulgent. Years passed.
A few days ago, I noted that my crisper drawer was overrun with scallions. Two big bunches from the farm share, plus the better part of a bunch I had bought last week. Scallion pancakes came to mind, and I couldn’t banish the thought. I wanted to replicate that salty, chewy goodness without all the grease that scared us away from our favorite appetizer.
How’d it work out? Quite well, if I do say so myself. We dipped each chewy, flakey wedge into a soy ginger sauce and quickly gobbled up that plate of pancakes. I’ll be making these again, and not just for nostalgia’s sake.
Adapted from East Meets West With Ming Tsai
Yield: 4 pancakes
2 cups white whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup scallions, very thinly sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp canola oil
Soy ginger dipping sauce, recipe below
1. Add the flour to a mixing bowl. Gradually add the boiling water, a little bit at a time, mixing the dough with a wooden spoon as you go. Continue adding water until a dough just forms; for me, this was 3/4 cups of water. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
2. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a thin rectangle. The rectangle should be approximately 11″ by 14″, and or a slightly under 1/4″ thick. Mix together the sesame and canola oils in a small bowl. Brush the oil mixture over the pancake dough. Sprinkle the dough with scallions, a pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Starting from the short end of the dough, carefully roll it up as you would roll a jelly roll, into a tight spiral shape. Slice the spiral roll into four equally sized shorter spirals.
4. Taking one of the dough sections into your hands, hold opposite ends of the spiraled log, and twist it, as if you were wringing out a wet towel (very gently). Then, fold and pinch the two ends of the spiral underneath to form a rounded ball as pictured in the grid at bottom right. Gently roll out the ball into a 5 or 6 inch pancake, pressing any stray scallion slices back into the pancake.
5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Either spray with cooking spray, or add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the pan. Fry pancakes, one at a time, for a few minutes on each side, until nicely golden. Slice into wedges and serve immediately with soy-ginger dipping sauce.
Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sugar
1. Stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl, until the sugar is dissolved. Serve it up!