Scallion pancakes, or cong you bing, are a classic Chinese street snack and restaurant appetizer. These thin, pan-fried flatbreads are shatteringly crisp on the outside, full of flaky, delicately chewy layers on the inside, and shot through with heady scallion flavor in every bite.
With the right technique, you can easily recreate a perfectly layered pancake at home.
Start by kneading flour, water, oil, and salt into a soft but sturdy dough. Roll it out into a thin round, brush it with oil thickened with a bit of flour (a replacement for traditional lard), and scatter the surface with minced scallions.
Then come the crucial steps: Roll the round up into a log, tucking the scallion bits in tight, and then coil the log into a tight spiral. Finally, again flatten and roll out the spiral into a thin pancake—now hiding layers upon layers of alternating dough and fat.
This clever technique is a form of lamination, similar to (but much easier than) the process behind multilayered puff pastry and croissants. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be frying up flaky, chewy-crisp, restaurant-quality scallion pancakes at home with ease.
Scallion Pancakes (Cong You Bing)
Prep Time: 1 hour
Rest Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Makes 4 pancakes
For the pancakes:
- 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3/4 cup warm water (140 degrees F)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 scallions, green part only, minced
For the dipping sauce:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 scallion, minced
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
To prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the warm water. First, use a pair of chopsticks (or a fork) to mix, for about 1 minute. Then, knead the mixture until it comes together into a ball of dough and the sides of the mixing bowl are clean, another 2 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a flat working surface. Continue to knead the dough until smooth, about 2 minutes. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
In another small bowl, combine all ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside.
To form the pancakes:
Lightly flour a flat working surface. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball.
Working with one ball of dough at a time (keep the rest covered with plastic wrap), flatten the dough with the palms of your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a thin circle, about 10 inches in diameter.
Brush a thin layer of the oil mixture all over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of minced scallions (green part only) on top.
Starting from the bottom of the circle, roll the dough up into a log.
Then take one end of the log and curl it onto itself toward the other end, forming a spiral, like a cinnamon bun.
Tuck the other end of the log underneath the spiral. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Working with one bun at a time (keep the rest covered with plastic wrap), flatten it as much as possible with the palms of your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a thin pancake, 6–8 inches in diameter. (It’s O.K. if the scallion pieces peek out of the dough in the process.)
Cover with plastic wrap and repeat with the remaining dough.
At this point, you can freeze the pancakes to cook later by stacking them, separated by sheets of wax or parchment paper or plastic wrap, and storing them in an airtight Ziploc bag. Freeze for up to two months.
To cook the pancakes:
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a flat-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Working with one pancake at a time, place in the middle of the pan and cook, flipping every minute or so, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.
Serve whole or cut into small wedges, with the dipping sauce.
Recipe by CiCi Li. CiCi Li is the producer and presenter of “CiCi’s Food Paradise” on NTD. Join her in discovering the world of Asian home cooking at CiCiLi.tv