I learned all my essential skills and understanding of everything food-related from my mom, who is an amazing cook+baker. Much of the time, I learned while procrastinating on homework by spending time in the kitchen. After all, who else would take over sauteeing for her when she was in the middle of cooking and had to answer the phone? 😉
I don’t know any measurements to Chinese recipes because it’s how I learned:
“Ma, how much wine?” “More…more….okay, 夠了 (enough)!” The dishes that remind me of home are the ones that I only know how to cook by feel, because I would almost always be there to watch my mom make them.
Scallion pancakes and mung bean porridge (葱油餅 cong1 you2 bing3 and 綠豆稀飯 lu4 dou4 xi1 fan4) were two staples in our house as I grew up. My mom would buy bunches of lush and green onions fresh from the Chinese supermarket (only in Los Angeles can you call the Chinese grocery stores SUPERmarkets), or sometimes she would rescue green onions from the fridge that were threatening to go yellow/brown and limp. We would make stacks of these, and my sister and I would take turns being in charge of cutting these into eighths.
My husband Tim will attest to the fact that when we go out with friends and they order scallion pancakes ($4.95) at restaurants, I try my best not to let my cringing show. Of course, I cringe because they are so easy to make at home, and with $5 you could buy enough ingredients to make you a huge stack of scallion pancakes with lots of scallions, not just a wimpy few scallions that they give you in restaurants.
Won’t you try making it ? I brought these for my friends at Bistrot La Minette, and even they loved it! (To me, that is ultimate food validation, next to Tim’s validation of posting pictures of the food to his Facebook page or pretending to steal all the food 😀 )
You have been warned: Once you make this, you may also start to cringe when you friends order it at restaurants, because you’ll know how simple it can be to make at home! Enjoy!
Cong You Bing
Makes about 4 pancakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup hot water + 2-4 Tbsp extra room temperature water
1/4 cup flour + 2 1/2 Tbsp oil
Salt to taste (I used 1 3/4 tsp Kosher salt)
1/2 heaping cup of chopped scallions (This was 4 scallion stalks for me)
1) Boil water for the dough. Once the water boils, measure it out, add to the flour gradually, while stirring with chopsticks or the back of a rolling pin (I like to grab two chopsticks together and use them like a paddle).
2) After the hot water has been poured in, add 1 Tbsp room temperature water to the dough, and mix a little bit. If it looks like there is more than 1 Tbsp or so of unincorporated dough bits, add more water, about 1/2 Tbsp at a time. It’s always easier to mix water into the dough if not all of it is in one large clump, so mix slowly. If you overdo the water, add a little bit of flour at a time to offset the goopiness. The goal is to make a rather stiff dough.
3) The resulting dough should be NOT be smooth all over. It should have little bit of structure/stretchy feel to it, and the dough will stick to your hands a tiny bit, and also to the bottom of the bowl. Knead for 3 minutes to get the flour with scalded gluten mixed together
with the bits of flour with surviving gluten.
4) Cover and rest for at least 30 minutes. You can also put it in a lightly oiled bag, in the refrigerator, overnight. In the meantime, make your slurry of flour and oil, mixing well.
5) Take the dough out, and knead it a few times to ensure that the dough is completely homogeneous and smooth.
6) On a floured surface, roll the dough out to as thin of a piece as possible, without any rips. Seriously! Thinner equals more layers.
7) Spread the flour and oil slurry evenly across the surface of the dough, using your fingers to smear it everywhere. To get a head start, pour all the slurry in the middle of the dough first, and fold dough inwards from the edges to overlap the slurry , then fold dough back to original position. From this point, use your fingers to spread the slurry evenly.
8) Next, sprinkle salt evenly across the surface of the dough. Rub the salt in with your fingers- it should be enough salt that you feel some grains on your fingertips, distributed not too sparsely but not too densely.
9) Sprinkle scallions across the entire surface of the dough evenly.
11) Once you have a snake of
dough, pinch all the seams together with your fingertips. After the seams are pinched together, gently squeeze the snake so that it is thinner- around 3/4 inch in diameter.
13) With each portion, pinch the seams together again. Then, roll the snake up into a spiral, tucking the end underneath the spiral. Flatten the spiral out with your palm to make a round, then roll out to your desired thickness. If scallions fall out, it’s okay! Press them back into the dough and keep rolling.
14) Pan fry or fry in oil over medium to medium low heat, preferably on a cast iron pan. You will know it is time to flip it when the dough starts to change color, from white opaque to more of a yellowy, transparent hue. The bottom should also be golden brown; if not, you can always flip it back afterwards! It is very forgiving, so don’t worry.
15) For a crispier and more tender pancake, add more oil (enough so that the oil comes up to the sides or slightly over the top of the dough. For a chewier and less crispy pancake (or slightly less fattening), use less oil; only enough to coat the pan.
-Notice that the dough preparation is exactly the same as that used for jiu cai he zi. If you know how to make the dough for that, you can also make this dough!
-Don’t roll out the dough until right before you fry it, otherwise it will get too sticky. You can, however, make up all your spirals first, and keep them on a lightly floured surface while they wait their turn for the pan.
-To make ahead: You can also wrap the rolled out dough between layers of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and freeze them. Defrost until you can peel the plastic wrap away from the pancake, and cook on low heat until the pancake flattens out and is completely flush against the frying pan; then you can increase the heat a bit.
-Thinner pancakes will cook faster and have higher crispy to soft ratio; thicker pancakes will cook slower and have lower crispy to soft ratio.
-More oil will lead to shorter cook time because the heat transfer is better through oil than through air, so keep that in mind!
-The cooked cong you bing will end up thicker than the round you rolled out, so keep that in mind.
-Try eating this with mung bean soup to fill up your stomach with tasty liquid!