Scallion pancakes are traditionally made with lard—the Chinese term for scallion pancakes, cong you bing, literally means "onion grease pancake." Oil isn't just the cooking medium for scallion pancakes, but an essential ingredient required for texture and flavor. For novelist Lan Samantha Chang, who shared this family recipe from her childhood, Crisco was the American shortening closest in consistency to what her father remembered from his own childhood in China. Here, a generous layer of the vegetable shortening not only helps incorporate the fresh scallions into the dough but also creates beautiful and delicious flaky layers. The other unusual thing about Chang's parents' recipe is that it requires the rolling out of two pancakes at once. Back in China, instead of making each bing by itself, her father's family cook would actually roll out an even larger rectangular pastry, making multiple "pancakes" at a time. Rolling out a larger batch of dough also creates more layers, yielding flaky and delicious scallion pancakes.

March 2022

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Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Recipe Summary

total:
1 hr 30 mins
active:
1 hr
Servings:
4
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Using chopsticks, stir together flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Create a small well in center of flour mixture. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water, and stir quickly using chopsticks until clumps of dough form. Knead until a smooth ball forms, 3 to 4 minutes. (Dough should not be sticky.) Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let rest at room temperature 30 minutes.

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  • Uncover dough, and divide evenly into 2 portions. Shape 1 dough portion into a ball, keeping remaining dough portion covered with a towel until ready to use. Place dough ball on a lightly floured work surface or rolling board, and flatten slightly. Using a rolling pin, roll dough away from you and back toward you into an oval. Flip dough over, and rotate 90 degrees on work surface. Sprinkle with flour, if needed to prevent sticking, and repeat rolling process. Repeat rolling, flipping, and rotating process until dough forms a 12-inch round.

  • Using the back of a spoon, gently spread 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons shortening over dough round. The shortening does not need to be evenly spread, but the entire surface of dough should be covered. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup scallions, leaving a 1-inch border. Starting at bottom of dough round, roll dough into a tight log. Slice log in half crosswise. Working with 1 log half at a time, gently squeeze log to an even thickness and width (about 7 x 1 inch). Gently squeeze cut end of dough to enclose cut side by pressing exterior layer of dough together to seal. Starting with sealed end, coil log to form a tight spiral, tucking loose end under spiraled dough. Lightly dust with flour, and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

  • Repeat rolling and shaping process with remaining covered dough portion to yield 4 dough spirals total. Working with 1 dough spiral at a time, gently flatten and roll each spiral into a 7-inch pancake.

  • Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or a 14-inch wok over medium-high until oil is fragrant and shimmering. Gently place 1 pancake in hot oil. Cook, gently pressing center of pancake to flatten as needed, until deep golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Using tongs or a spatula, remove pancake from skillet, letting oil drip off, and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat cooking process with remaining 3 pancakes, adding 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to skillet per pancake and reducing heat as needed to prevent burning. Cut each pancake into 4 wedges, and serve immediately.

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