KitchenTigress: Spring Onion Pancakes

Spring Onion Pancakes

葱油饼 are pancakes made with thin layers of dough wrapped around chopped spring onions.

Spring onion pancakes are best enjoyed hot from the pan, when they're crispy, flakey, and fragrant. When you tear the pancake, the soft, fluffy layers inside separate easily. Good 葱油饼 isn't excessively oily although it's fried in hot oil.

Follow these tips to avoid soggy, oily and rubbery spring onion pancakes:

1. Spring onion pancakes are made with plain flour but not plain flours are the same. Two flours may have the same amount of protein, but one stretches much better than the other. For spring onion pancakes, you need to use flour that stretches well.

2. Roll the dough as thinly as possible, but not so thin it tears when wrapped with spring onions. Thinner layers make pancakes more flaky and fluffy.

3. The quality of spring onions is crucial. If you can't get good spring onions, don't bother making 葱油饼. The small, thin ones (leaves about ½ cm wide or less) with purple stems are my favourite.

4. Use high heat for frying, but not so high that the oil smokes. High heat is needed to make the pancakes brown, crisp, and puff up so that the layers of dough are soft, fluffy and distinctly separate.

5. Put enough oil in the pan to reach the entire bottom of the pancake. Why? Because pancakes need high heat (refer to point #4). Oil helps conduct heat from the pan to the pancake.
Spring onion pancakes are made with just 5 ingredients: flour, spring onions, water, salt, and oil. If you get them right, they're delicious. If you get them wrong, try again.

(Recipe for 8 pieces)

350 g plain flour
2 tsp salt
6 tbsp vegetable oil
120 g thinly sliced spring onions (aka scallions and green onions)

1. Dissolve 1 tsp salt in ½ cup (120 ml) freshly boiled water. Drizzle over flour. Stir till well mixed. Add ¼ cup room temperature water. Knead till smooth, 10 minutes or so. Dough should be tacky but not enough to stick to hands. If too dry, wet hands once or twice whilst kneading. If sticky, sprinkle with some flour. When dough is smooth, roll into a ball with edges tucked underneath. Cover and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

2. Dust work surface with flour, sparingly.

3. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Flatten with palm. Roll out as thinly as possible. Brush dough surface with about ½ tsp vegetable oil, leaving ½ cm margin around edges. Sprinkle with fine salt to taste (a large pinch or about 1/8 tsp). Sprinkle with 2 tbsp spring onions, to the edges. Roll up like a Swiss roll, tightly. Pinch edges to seal.

4. Twirl dough so that it looks like a snake coiled up. Flatten top down with palm. Roll out gently into a thin layer, pressing the middle harder and the edges more gently. This allows the edges to puff up more when fried, thus making the inside layers more distinct and flakey. Try not to break the dough. A few small leaks are OK but everything inside spilling out isn't. Repeat with remaining dough, redusting work surface sparingly when necessary.

5. Pan-fry pancakes in hot oil over medium heat till golden brown on both sides. Whilst frying, press middle of pancakes gently to increase contact between dough and pan. Lower heat if oil starts to smoke. There should be a bit of oil floating in the pan at all times. Do not put too much oil in the pan in one go. Drizzle more as you fry, especially after turning pancakes over.

6. Drain pancakes on paper towels after frying. Crush between palms to break up layers before serving. Scrumptious when piping hot.

7. To eat, tear a small piece with your hands or a fork and pop it in your mouth. If you bite into the whole pancake, you'd flatten the layers of dough and destroy the flakiness. The mouthfeel wouldn't be good, and all your hard work would be wasted.