What Are Scallion Pancakes And How Do You Make Them?

Americans know pancakes as fluffy breakfast foods, typically enjoyed with butter and syrup. That's just one chapter in the big book of pancakes, however. There's a whole wide world of pancake varieties out there waiting for you, including savory scallion pancakes.

Also known as cong you bing, scallion pancakes are a flat, savory fried pancake popular in both China and throughout the world (via China Sichuan Food). As the blog China Sichuan Food points out, there are actually two types of scallion pancakes: a thinner, chewier version popular in northern China, and a thicker, crisper one commonly found in southern Chinese cities like Shanghai.

Though scallion pancakes are Chinese in origin, J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats notes that the dough has a lot of similarities with European laminated pastries like croissants. Lamination, or the process of folding dough around fat, is what creates the flaky layers so beloved in baked goods. The Kitchn notes scallion pancakes are also similar to paratha, a flaky, layered Indian flatbread.

Skip takeout and make your own scallion pancakes

Sure, it's easy enough to order some flaky scallion pancakes from your local Chinese takeout or dim sum spot. But nothing compares to the satisfaction of making your own.

As Maggie Zhu of Omnivore's Cookbook explains, the key to making scallion pancakes lies in the dough. First, gradually add hot water to salted flour, then add cool water and mix until a ball of dough forms. Rest it, knead it, and form into six balls.

To help the scallion filling stick, Zhu recommends spreading a paste of flour, salt, and oil (or, more indulgently, chicken fat) on the rolled-out dough balls. China Sichuan Food suggests using only the green parts of the scallion, as the tougher white part may not integrate well.

Now, the crucial step. Zhu writes to roll the flattened dough balls, so they become long, thin ropes. Then, curl the long pieces up in what López-Alt calls "jelly-roll style." Roll out the curled dough balls to create a flat pancake, and fry in an oiled pan over medium-high heat.

For a more complete meal, Zhu suggests serving scallion pancakes alongside Chinese dishes like sweet and sour pork. And of course, don't forget the dipping sauce!