Scallion pancakes: inviting your food(ie) friends to the wedding

I haven’t been around the blog much in recent weeks, mostly because I was tearing around getting ready to get married, so I have a decent excuse, at least. This is my brother walking me down the aisle.

When Greg and I got engaged last summer, the FIRST thing I did, in true chef fashion, was write the menu for my wedding. I wanted food that reflected my culinary career and represented my family’s tastes. It went like this:

Passed apps
Grilled chicken skewers, marinated in dipping sauce
Scallion pancakes with dipping sauce
Smoked salmon pinwheels on cuke rounds or crackers
Pigs in blankets
Warm artichoke dip in phyllo nests

Bread and cheese station, to stay in place through dinner

Ciabatta (from King Arthur)
Epi de ble (from King Arthur)
Grissini
My buttermilk sourdough
Grapes, Brie
Richard’s (my brother-in-law) smoked cheddar
Boursin, duck liver terrine

Dinner
Summer salad trio
Light mesclun base
•Potato salad, cherry tomato and frisée garnish
•Broccoli salad in radicchio
•Carrot and raisin salad with arugula or avocado slice
Entrée, choice of
5-ounce filet on caramelized onion and mushroom ragout
or
Smoke roasted turkey breast with peach and rhubarb chutney
Sides: haricots vert bundles, Susan’s potatoes

Wedding Cake: Chocolate layers, Kahlua simple syrup, coconut buttercream frosting;
Ice cream sundae bar

For the cocktail hour before the reception, my colleagues made it very clear that they expected to find an abundance of scallion pancakes on the servers’ trays. I’ve been making these addictive appetizers for almost 20 years now, and every time I do, there’s a stampede. I’ve always been reluctant to publish the recipe, because while the ingredients couldn’t be simpler, the texture of the dough is difficult to describe. It’s one of those things that has to be learned by touch. Observe:

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Since the blog allows me to show you how it comes together step by step, I’m emboldened to give it a whirl. You won’t find a link to this recipe, because I never measure the ingredients (All-purpose flour, warm water, kosher salt, scallions, peanut oil); it’s all by feel. But you will want to know about the dipping sauce, so I’m putting that recipe out there for you.

You’ll need a stand mixer with a paddle. Put some flour in the bowl, put the bowl on the mixer and set up the paddle.

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Now, fill a 2-cup measure with warm tapwater, turn the mixer on low and pour in the water in a steady stream.

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Keep going until the mixture resembles oatmeal.

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Let the mixer run for 2 minutes until you see the dough start to pull together as the paddle moves around. As the gluten develops, the paddle will leave a trail. Stop the mixture and touch the dough. If it coats your finger like this, it’s too wet. That’s fine; it’s easier to bring it to the right consistency from here than it is to add water, which makes a slurpy mess surrounding a too-tight ball of dough.

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Turn the mixer back on low speed, and sprinkle in more flour, 1/4-cup at a time, letting the mixer run for a minute in between additions. The dough will begin to tighten up, but you want it to continue to be very stretchy.

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Stop the mixer and pull up the paddle. If the dough looks like this, you’re in good shape. See how it still looks a little lumpy? Put the paddle back down and let the mixer run for 5 minutes. Now touch the dough again. If it doesn’t stick to your finger and feels like loose Silly Putty, it’s perfect.

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Cover the top of the dough with a layer of peanut oil, and let it rest for half an hour while you make the dipping sauce and prep the scallions.

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Here’s one of my favorite chef’s tricks. For the dipping sauce, you’ll need minced fresh ginger. Most cooks I know have had a poor leftover knuckle of shriveled, moldy fresh ginger kicking around the produce drawer of their fridges at one time or another. No longer. The easiest way to peel fresh ginger is with a cheap spoon.

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Watch:

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Once you have naked ginger, you can dice it up and place it in a glass jar. Cover the ginger with rice vinegar or dry sherry. It will keep in the refrigerator like this indefinitely. Really. I’m talking up to a year. And the liquid takes on the flavor of the ginger, so you can use it in sauces or glazes.

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Now for the filling for the scallion pancakes.

Peel any ratty layers off the base of a bunch of scallions, wash them, then trim the tops at an angle. Slice the scallions, from the tops down (you’ll use the whole length of the vegetable) until you only have the stub end with the root left. Send those to the compost pile. Put your sliced scallions in a bowl and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Pour peanut oil on top, enough to coat the whole business with a little to spare.

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Time to assemble. This is a real “mud pie” kind of operation, so I always do this inside a sheet pan, to contain the mess. It’s also a good idea to lose the rings.

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Pour an 8-inch diameter puddle of peanut oil into the pan. Take a handful of dough (a blob about the size of a baseball) and plop it in the middle of the puddle.

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Spread the dough out into a 10-inch diameter circle about 1/4-inch thick. Now take a small handful of the scallion mixture (about 1/3 cup) and spread it over the top of the dough.

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Roll the dough toward yourself to make a spiral.

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Coil the spiral around like a snail, and tuck the two ends together.

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Plop the scallion pancake into an inexpensive fold-over sandwich bag. You can wrap them individually in plastic, but it’s a little bit like wrestling an octopus.

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Once all of the pancakes are rolled, you can either begin to cook or hold them in the refrigerator for up to a week. The longer they’re in the refrigerator, the poofier they’ll get when you cook them, as the flour and water go into a slow fermentation from native yeast.

To cook these babies, place a 10-inch, flat heavy skillet over medium-low heat, and add 1/4-inch of peanut oil. Peanut oil is preferable because of its high smoke point and neutral flavor. Spread one of the pancakes either freehand (if you’re brave), or on an oiled salad plate.

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Put the pancake in the heated pan and spread it out to a round shape before it sets.

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Cook the first side for 4 to 5 minutes; it’s easy to pick it up and peek underneath. You want it to be golden brown and crispy.

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Turn it over and cook the other side until it’s also golden and crispy-looking.

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Drain the pancake on a stack of paper towels or uncoated, inexpensive paper plates. Cut in eighths.

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Put some dipping sauce in a ramekin, sprinkle it with sesame seeds, and place the warm wedges around it. Go back and cook the rest of the pancakes, because they aren’t going to last very long.

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If you want to do these for a party, you can cook the pancakes off ahead of time and reheat them in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Here’s the kicker. When I first started making these at Biba restaurant in Boston in 1991, they sold for $7.50 a plate, and flour was much less costly then. My local Chinese restaurant Vermont sells them for $3.50. Next time you’re in a “mud pie” kind of food mood, give these a whirl. You’ll have a great time, and your friends will applaud, then badger you for more!

Make or buy comparison
Top Tier restaurant: $7.50
Local Chinese restaurant: $3.50
Make at home: Pancake: $.68, 1/4 cup dipping sauce: .36, total: $1.04

Susan Reid
About

Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently enjoying her fourth career after stints in advertising, running restaurants, and teaching at the New England Culinary Institute. She joined King Arthur in 2002 to ...

comments

  1. Cheryl Fuller

    But… but… where is the recipe for the dipping sauce? I could be blind but I don’t see it after 2 readings.

    Cheryl, your eyesight’s fine! Dipping sauce coming tomorrow – had a little problem with the link- PJH

    Reply
  2. Mike T.

    Look yummy! Um, did I miss the dipping sauce recipe?

    Mike, dipping sauce coming tomorrow – had a little problem with the link- PJH

    Reply
  3. suzanne

    forget the pancakes! You look RESPLENDENT!
    Congrats on the marital bliss. Nothing is better than a good man, not even scallion pancakes.

    :)

    Reply
  4. stephanie

    congrats on getting married!

    thanks for the pic-by-pic instructions! my scallion pancakes never turn out quite as good as those made by certain friends of the family; hopefully these’ll work for me!

    Reply
  5. Jan

    First, CONGRATULATIONS!! May you have a long and happy life together.

    Second, thank you for this “recipe”. I love these things and always wondered how to make them. The recipes I have just are not the same as what you get in a good Chinese restaurant.

    Reply
  6. Susan

    The recipe looks absolutely delicious and not at all hard to do.

    You made a very lovely bride. Best wishes and it sounds like it was a wonderful wedding.

    I have become a very regular reader of this blog. I check every day to see if there are new entries. Very enjoyable. Thank you all.

    Reply
  7. breadchick

    Congratulations Susan! You look resplendent and lovely.

    Scallion pancakes are one of my favourite dishes to order and I’ve been dying to try making them by scratch. I think this will be the recipe I try.

    Reply
  8. Royce Robertson

    Your scallion pancakes sound out of this world but I am not that proficient at baking. I am too insecure to try anything like this without an exact recipe but I sure enjoyed reading about it and about your wonderful wedding. You looked beautiful and I wish you years and years of happiness.
    Fondly,
    Royce R.

    Reply
  9. stephanie

    can you give a rough estimate for about how much flour you start out with? (grams/cups/ whatever; anything’s fine)

    Hi, Stephanie. In the blog I use two flour scoops. I just measured what that is, and it comes out to pound, or 4 cups. The water ended up being between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 cups. The yield was 6 pancakes, which when cut give 8 pieces each. Count on people eating at least 4 pieces each. Hope this does the job for you! Susan

    Reply
  10. Kevin

    What a beautiful dress! And I can’t imagine what it’s like to cook for the amazing folks at King Arthur. The pressure!

    Reply
  11. Beth

    Susan, you looked absolutely radiant and beautiful; what a gorgeous dress. You deserve all the happiness in the world. Thanks for all the recipes and suggestions and advice you’ve given over the years. Wishing you and your husband many many years of marital bliss!

    Reply
  12. stephanie

    thanks for the measurements! i made them this weekend, and they turned out fabulously! everyone loved them. (and i probably could have made ten times the amount that i made and still run out completely haha)

    i posted about them in my blog, if you want to take a look.

    Reply
  13. Maricel

    Hi Susan! Best Wishes!
    The dipping sauce says 1/2 cup of grated fresh ginger, that sounds like a lot!
    Hi, Maricel. No, 1/2 cup is fine. That’s a piece that’s about4 inches long. It’s up against lots of other flavors, and if you use less the flavor gets lost. Susan Reid

    Reply
  14. Maricel

    Thanks Susan. Looks like this dip would also be great with steamed shrimps. Will try the pancakes this weekend

    Reply
  15. Evelyn

    The recipe looks great and I am eager to try it, but, could you estimate the amount of salt that you used in the filling?

    Reply
  16. Roselee

    In this recipe for scallion cakes, can another type of oil be used as I’m allergic to peanuts??

    Yes you may use a different oil. Olive oil or canola oil are both good choices. Joan@TheBaker’sHotline

    Reply
  17. Roselee Bogosian

    I would love to make the scallion cakes. How does one do this when the computer with the instructions are in one room and my kitches several rooms away. There is no recipe so you have to look at the pictures. Perhaps someone can help me with this. There is no way I can print out this whole procedures, it would take pages and pages. Thanks so much!

    Roselee, I’ll forward your request to Susan – she blogged that one. She’ll help you out somehow. – PJH

    Reply
  18. hooka

    This is my first time visiting your blog and i must say i like it a lot.
    Your post was an educationa read.
    I will surely check back here more often!

    hooka

    Reply
  19. Lucy Price-Murofushi

    Sorry but i have to agree with Roselee…..i want to make them in real time. There is the time proven method of recipe writing passed down from my mom and her mom and her mom and other generations where a simple paragraph-style or two or three gave the same instructions above, but without this current generation having to print out the pictues too. A blog should spur the reader up from the computer and into the kitchen to flurried and floured action to produce the wonderful item you have described. What a lovely beautiful happy bride…a thousand years of happiness to the bride and her groom. Any other good men available out there…they are hard to find, so take good care of him, Susan.

    Reply
  20. Stacy

    Yummy! Any idea on how many Weight Watchers points these would chime in at? Just want to know so I can limit myself, otherwise I would probably eat far too many!

    Thanks!
    Hi, Stacy. I went through the tortuous process of doing the nutritionals on these a long time ago; it’s not good news, I’m afraid. Half of one scallion pancake (four wedges; and let’s be real, you’re not going to eat any LESS) is in the neighborhood of 8 points, but you can definitely check off your oil for the day! And the dipping sauce is free, thank heaven. Susan

    Reply
  21. Gloria Hartley

    I live way out in Oak Harbor, Washington and having a hands on, step by step guide is the next best thing to having a computer with aroma piped in. Can you see me salivating?

    We are finally able to get KA flour in our local stores and it really does make a world of difference.

    How about doing a sourdough starter the same way?

    Reply
  22. Val

    Wow, I love this ‘recipe’! For those who want an actual recipe, here it is (the question marks are where I guessed.)

    Scallion Pancakes
    6 pancakes
    48 appetizers

    16 ounces AP flour (plus more for correcting thickness if necessary)
    1 ¾ c water*
    peanut oil
    1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced (¼ inch thick?) on an angle (entire scallion except root)
    (1 T?) kosher salt

    In the bowl of your stand mixer, dump the 16 oz flour. Attach the paddle, turn the mixer on low, and pour in 1 ¾ cups of water in a steady stream. Let the mixer run for 2 minutes until you see the dough start to pull together as the paddle moves around. As the gluten develops, the paddle will leave a trail. Stop the mixture and touch the dough. If it coats your finger, it’s too wet. Turn the mixer back on low speed, and sprinkle in more flour, 1/4-cup at a time, letting the mixer run for a minute in between additions. The dough will begin to tighten up, but you want it to continue to be very stretchy. Stop the mixer and pull up the paddle between additions. When the dough looks like fine oatmeal, still a little lumpy, you’re in good shape. Put the paddle back down and let the mixer run for 5 minutes. Now touch the dough again. If it doesn’t stick to your finger and feels like loose Silly Putty, it’s perfect. Pour a layer of peanut oil to cover it generously and let it rest a half hour.

    Place the sliced scallions in a small bowl. Sprinkle with the (1 T?) kosher salt. Pour enough peanut oil over to coat with some to spare.

    Pour an 8” puddle of peanut oil into a small baking sheet. Take a baseball size lump (2/3 cup?) of the dough and spread it into a 10” circle on the puddle. Take 1/3 c of the scallion mixture and spread on top. Roll the dough toward yourself into a tube, then coil the tube into a spiral, tucking the ends together, and insert it into a sandwich bag to hold. Cook immediately or hold for up to a week in the fridge; the longer you hold them, the puffier the finished product will be.

    To cook, place a 10-inch, flat heavy skillet over medium-low heat, and add 1/4-inch of peanut oil. Peanut oil is preferable because of its high smoke point and neutral flavor. Spread one of the pancakes either freehand (if you’re brave), or on an oiled salad plate. Put the pancake in the heated pan and spread it out to a round shape before it sets. Cook the first side for 4 to 5 minutes; it’s easy to pick it up and peek underneath. You want it to be golden brown and crispy. Turn it over and cook the other side until it’s also golden and crispy-looking. Drain the pancake on a stack of paper towels or uncoated, inexpensive paper plates. Cut in eighths. Serve with dipping sauce.

    *Susan actually specified 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 water, but also instructed that it would be better to have a too-thin batter that needed to be thickened than a too-thick batter that needed to be thinned, so I used the larger measurement.

    Reply
  23. Sandy

    I don’t have a stand mixer with a paddle! Is it possible to do this with a hand mixer? Is this a recipe that could only be invented after electricity? How do people without stand mixers with paddles make them? Surely there must be a way…

    This recipe should be able to be made by hand. However, as the dough is very sticky it will be challenging to mix. Please give our Baker’s Hotline a call if you have any further questions, we are here to help!-Jon 855-371-2253

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid , post author

      The Baking Sheet is going to be running a gluten-free scallion pancake recipe in the Holiday issue, which comes out right around November 1st. Susan

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