Whole wheat scallion pancakes

Recently, I was overcome by my desire to master cooking the food I love from my home country of Taiwan. So I decided to make scallion pancakes. These bear almost no resemblance to traditional American pancakes; they’re savory and pair perfectly with a warm bowl of soy milk. I usually order my soy milk hot, but it’s equally good on ice, lightly sweetened. Yum!

Scallion pancakes (cong yu bing) are part of the Taiwanese-style breakfast, which traces its origins to Northern China. Other parts of this meal include soy milk (dou jiang), egg crepe (dan bing), steamed buns (man tou), and savory Chinese doughnut (yu tiao).

My parents moved back to Taiwan after they retired from their careers, and my family and I visit them every year. Lucky for us, their apartment is located right across the street from an outpost of the famous Yonghe Dou Jiang Da Wang – or Yonghe District Soy Milk King. (The name speaks for itself, doesn’t it?) This branch is open 24 hours, like many eateries in Taipei, and run by a young and cheerful couple who seem to be there whenever I pass by. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable they feel in front of the hot griddle, cooled only by an electric fan. I felt uncomfortably hot just standing and watching them work quickly to prepare pancakes to order, deftly turning them out within minutes.

Unlike a lot of Taiwanese food, scallion pancakes are widely available in the United States. They are even available frozen in Asian grocery stores, and they’re pretty good. Nothing beats fresh, homemade scallion pancakes, though, so I’d encourage you to try my recipe below. (Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments!) My version of the pancakes is a bit different from how they’re usually made because I use white whole-wheat flour instead of regular white all-purpose flour. I do this because I’ve been trying to cook only whole grains in my kitchen. The result is somewhat heartier than the standard pancakes, with a pleasant nutty taste.

Servings: 4

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup sesame seed oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced scallion greens (about a bunch of scallions)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil for light frying

Directions

  1. Pour flour into a mixing bowl, form a well in the center, and slowly pour in the boiling water. Stir with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated, then use your hands to gently knead the dough once it’s cool enough to handle. 
  2. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes. After the dough has rested, divide it into four balls and roll out each ball onto a lightly floured surface. Use a brush to coat each dough round with sesame oil. 
  3. Scatter 1/4 of the sliced scallions onto each prepared round of dough. Sprinkle evenly with a few pinches of salt. 
  4. Roll up each round, like you’re rolling up a newspaper, as tightly as you can. Next, take each roll and coil it into a snail shape. Take each coil of dough and roll it flat again. This seals in the scallions and creates layers in the dough. (You can repeat these steps for another round to create even more layers. Serious Eats has a great tutorial on this.) 
  5. Warm a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, then cook one pancake at a time, turning over when golden. 
  6. Serve warm along with a cup of soy milk (optional).

Nutrition Information (per serving)

  • Calories: 122.3
  • Total fat: 2.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 3.6 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 23.4 g
  • Dietary fiber: 3.5 g
  • Sugars: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 3.8 g

Contributor

Linda Shiue, MD