Green Onion Pancakes

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Few things are as instantly gratifying as fried food. Reaching deep into our evolutionary history, the desire for fatty and crispy has united the human race in a struggle for satisfaction. Every culture in every time has its comfort foods: meals that fulfill the need for energy and light up well-established rewards pathways in the brain. A hunk of bread dipped in rich chicken soup or a bite of pierogi, hot and savory on a biting afternoon, has the power to send you to a place that is as familiar and beloved to you as your own bed. Having grown up in the melting pot of California, our list of go-to comfort foods includes mac and cheese–real mac and cheese with a crusty breadcrumb topping and creamy sauce, but also the neon orange Kraft version–chicken tikka masala, and green onion pancakes. When the call for submissions went up on Food52 for the week’s green onion challenge, we were prepared.

Green onion pancakes are simple–they come together with a little flour and water, a dash of salt, and a generous brush of sesame oil. The magic lies in their preparation. One of the delights of eating a green onion pancake is the way the layers pull apart with each bite–crunchy exterior giving way to chewy swirls of onion-studded dough. This structure is achieved by a graceful series of rolling steps, which have been illustrated below by my talented co-blogger to help those of you following along at home. The other tempting characteristic of green onion pancakes is the thin layer of crunch surrounding the interior, achieved by the minute or two spent frying to a golden brown. One bite into a warm chunk of pancake, preferably dipped in soy sauce, and a familiar happiness will wrap its arms around you.

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Chinese Green Onion Pancakes (Adapted from Serious Eats)
Makes four pancakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for your work-surface
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 tbsp sesame seed oil
  • 3 cups green onion, chopped
  • A pinch of salt (three fingers)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

In a large food processor slowly add your boiling water to the flour and salt with the processor running until a dough forms and starts to wind around the middle. Once you dough is combined, take it out and knead it a few times on a floured surface. Roll it in to a ball and let rest for 30 in a bowl with a damp towel over the top so that the dough does not dry out.

After your dough has rested, divide it into 4 parts. Individually roll a quarter of your dough into a circle about 7-8″ diameter. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, evenly spread about 1/2 tablespoon sesame seed oil all over the pancake. Roll up like a jelly roll one direction and then into a spiral so that it resembles a cinnamon bun. Flatten with the palm on your hand and roll out again into a flat disk. Add another 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seed oil and a handful of chopped scallions, evenly distributed. Roll again and make your cinnamon bun shape, flatten and roll out to be a flat pancake again, about 5″ in diameter. Now you’re ready to fry. This process of rolling and re-rolling is what creates the layers in the dough that will make your pancakes flaky and chewy.

 

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan, the oil should be about 1/8″ deep on the bottom of your pan. You can check that your oil is hot enough by adding a drop of water in. If it crackles, your oil is ready. Add the pancakes to the oil individually and fry on each side of your pancake until the dough is golden brown. After removing them from the oil, put on a drying rack with paper towels to soak up excess oil. Cut into triangles and serve warm with soy sauce.

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