16 February 2012

Scallion pancakes

Did you know that scallions and green onions aren't exactly the same thing? I thought that 'scallion' was just a highfalutin way to say 'green onion', and word-perception aside, I think a lot of cooks would agree that scallions = green onions = those green straw-like leaves with little white bulbs (typically sold in bunches, often held together at the ends by 2 thin blue rubber bands, for 30-50 cents a bunch).

scallion pancakes

However, the other day I was at my favourite grocery store and in their fresh produce aisle, right above a huge pile of beautiful green onions, was a little poster explaining that scallions aren't green onions. That was a first ... maybe I've been hanging out at all the wrong circles, but I'd always heard that green onions are scallions. 

Anyway, a bit of quality time in cyberspace did confirm that there is indeed a difference. To sum it up, scallions are young green onions: they are slightly milder in taste and more slender in shape, with no hint of a bulb. Subtleties aside, I think they are often used interchangeably in cooking, and probably all but the most discerning palates wouldn't take offense.

scallion pancakes

On many dinner tables, scallions/green onions often appear in a supporting role, added in small quantities for a bit of an Asian kick, or sprinkled over a dish as garnish. In scallion pancakes, though, they step to the forefront - but fear not: the allium flavour is quite mild, definitely nowhere near incendiary.

I'd never made scallion pancakes before, and what I found most intriguing was how these pancakes are formed. You start off with a small ball of dough, roll it out into a disc, sprinkle chopped scallions over it, roll it up, coil it, and roll it out again. It sounds fussy, but it actually goes pretty quickly. 

 scallion pancakes how-to

All that rolling helps create a pancake with layers, and after a brief encounter with some hot oil, what you end up with is a crispy crust and a tender, slightly chewy, layered interior. A cross between pancake and flatbread, these are particularly tasty when dipped in sauce. Some people serve these as a side dish and use it to sop up little puddles of sauce left on their plate; others serve it as an appetizer or a snack with sauce on the side.  

As for the whole scallion vs. green onion issue ... for my purposes, toh-may-toh, toh-mah-toh, or something like that: I made these scallion pancakes using green onions, and they turned out just fine.
scallion pancakes

Scallion Pancakes and Scallion Dipping Sauce

This recipe serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer, snack, or side.

Whisk in a medium bowl:
  1½ cups all purpose flour
  1 tsp salt

  ½ cup water, at room temperature

Using either a fork or your fingers, combine the flour and water. This is not meant to be a wet dough, but if the dough is having trouble coming together, add more water a teaspoon at a time. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured flat surface and knead it for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Brush the dough with a bit of vegetable oil, and let it rest at room temperature, covered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince to yield about ½ cup:
  6 scallions (or green onions)

Divide the dough into 4. Working on one piece at a time, while keeping the others covered to prevent drying, roll one of the dough quarters into a disc about 7" in diameter.

Brush each disc with:
  ½ tsp toasted sesame oil (2 tsp sesame oil total) 

Sprinkle with:
  2 Tbsp of the scallions minced earlier (½ cup scallions total)
  1½ tsp chopped cilantro (2 Tbsp chopped cilantro total)
    (I think the cilantro is optional - I skipped it because I'm not a fan) 

Roll the dough, like a cigarette, then coil it into a spiral, tucking the tail end underneath. Roll this out to about ¼" thick (to get a disc about 5" across). Set aside and cover, while you roll out the remaining dough pieces. (See the step-by-step pictures above).

Fry 1 pancake at a time, in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, using about 1 Tbsp vegetable oil per pancake, until golden brown on each side, 1½ - 2 minutes per side.

Transfer pancake to a chopping board and tent loosely with foil while you cook the others. Slice into wedges and serve, preferably with scallion dipping sauce (below).

Scallion Dipping Sauce
This can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. 
Combine in a bowl: 
  ¼ cup soy sauce
  2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  2 Tbsp mirin (rice wine)
  2 Tbsp water
  1 tsp chili oil (optional)
  ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
  1 scallion, minced


  1. Gorgeous photos and the scallion pancake looks sooo delicious!

  2. I always thought scallion was just the American term for spring onions - thank you for enlightening me! These pancakes look delicious - love the unusual method.

    1. You're welcome :o) Yes, isn't that method fascinating? It's fun too.

  3. I only found out there was a difference in the March issue of Martha Stewart living. Your pancakes are beautiful! I'm bookmarking them. They look very light in texture, and scallion pancakes often look greasy but yours not at all.

    1. Yes, they weren't greasy (I'm glad). Whenever I fry stuff I do have a habit of blotting excess oil out with paper towels (as soon as the stuff comes out of the pan) ... makes me feel less guilty somehow :o)

  4. I have made these using Ming T'sai's recipe and they have always been delicious. Yours look to have a different texture and I'm looking forward to trying them.

    1. I'll have to try Ming Tsai's recipe! Do you follow the one they have on the Food Network site?

  5. I had no idea about the scallions vs. green onions thing! However, even knowing the visual difference now, I'd never know the difference by taste ;)

    These looks great! I never understood why they were shaped the way they were - I thought it was just an odd way to incorporate the scallions - but the layers thing makes sense. Yummy!

    1. Honestly, me too. I would fail a blind taste test :o)

  6. thanks for sharing.

  7. The lady who made these added bits of bacon, she is Cambodian and a fabulous cook..I Love these