Scallion Pancakes (Cong You Bing) with Ginger Dipping Sauce

Cross my heart, these are utterly delicious. Apparently traditional scallion pancakes were unleavened, but these have a little bit of leavnly love in them to make then light and fluffy. They poof up a little bit, and slightly crispy on the outside, and are soft and flaky on the inside.

You should probably start calling them cong you bing, since they’re not even really a pancake—they’re made from dough instead of batter. Plus, bonus pretentious points for being able to identify food correctly by its actual name—just like we learned biscotti is already plural, and one is a biscotto while two or more are always biscotti and never ‘biscottis’!

The extra love in these cong you bing comes from rolling them three different ways in order to get all the flaky goodness going—much like puff pastry or croissants, only with fewer layers (you’re welcome). It’s especially handy to have a sous chef around to help you out, as even though this is an easy recipe, it can get a little complicated when it comes to assembly.

Never fear, however—I took pictures! There’s even an appearance by a snail. You can’t go wrong.

I don’t, however, have pictures of the final product, mostly because it gets eaten so quickly. We have a few in the freezer (did I mentioned that they’re great to freeze and then fry up on a weeknight?) that I’ll use in a photo shoot soon.

I even took these on the T to a party one night! (It always makes me feel awkward to take food on the T, like ‘Hey, here’s all this food that I’m eating!’ I keep meaning to start carrying around Pine Street Inn cards to hand to people begging for change…) I did get some stares—actually, all of the stares, I think—and a woman jovially remarked how I was making her hungry. I didn’t get robbed for my pancakes, though, even in Chinatown! So never fear, these are tested for public transportation readiness…although I can’t make any promises about the bus.

Serves: 16 as an appetiser

Cong You Bing (葱油饼)

Ingredients: 

1 t yeast 

1 t sugar 

2 c flour (all-purpose works best), divided 

1 t salt 

4 T oil (either canola, vegetable, or toasted sesame works well), divided + more for frying 

1 c scallions, finely sliced 

Method:
Combine yeast, sugar, and 1/4 c warm (~100-110ºF, ~38-43ºC) water and whisk to mix well and active the yeast.

Sift 1 c each of the flour into two separate mixing bowls. In the first bowl, add the yeast mixture and stir well until a dough forms.

In the second bowl, add the salt and 2 T oil. Slowly add 3/4 c boiling water, stirring until a stiff dough forms.

Lightly flour a clean surface and empty both doughs out onto it. Knead them together until well mixed, 8-10 minutes.

Lightly oil a small bowl and place the dough in it. Cover with a damp towel and place somewhere warm, letting rise for 30-40 minutes.

After the dough is risen (poking it with a finger will leave a small impression), roll it out into a rectangle about 16″ by 12″.

cong you bing dough, perfectly 16"x12"

I changed the assembly bit slightly from this recipe, since it was really quite labour intensive, and this shortens things a bit. Still, prepare to get messy.

Lightly brush the rectangle with ~2 T oil. Sprinkle scallions evenly over the entire rectangle, taking care to reach all the way to the left and right sides (you don’t want any pancakes left out!).

scattered scallions!

Roll the dough tightly into a log.

cong you bing log

Cut across the log into 16 pieces.

cong you bing long, just chillin'

On a floured surface one piece at a time, flatten so that the spiral shows. It’s okay if some of the scalliony guys are trying to escape.

flattened 1/16 of a cong you bing log

Roll into a log…

tiny roll…

…and then roll the log into a little snail guy.

snail guy…

Stand him upright on his shell so that the spiral is on top.

snail…you bing?

Flatten into a disc and set aside for frying.

smoosh!

Repeat with remaining 15 pieces. (It’s super handy to have a sous chef rolling while you fry.) You can pop these into the freezer at this point—they’ll keep for a few days. Let them thaw out a little before frying.

cong you bing, ready for frying (or freezing!)

To fry, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. You’re going to have to play with oil amounts and heat levels until you get the perfect golden brown fry, so don’t take your eyes off these guys for a second! They’re sneaky, and I have a suspicion that they want to high-tail it down the Silk Road. Don’t let them.

Add enough oil to cover the bottoms of the bing that you’ll place in the pan. I fry three at a time. You want the heat low enough that some of the oil absorbs into the dough, which will turn it a nice golden brown instead of a dried veiny dark brown or black. (The same theory applies to grilled cheese sandwiches, corn fritters, or anything else fried.)

Watch the bottoms so that they don’t burn. They’ll puff up nicely, and you can use a silicon brush to brush the tops evenly with oil before flipping, or add more oil as you flip so that the other side is able to turn golden. Flip and fry the other side. Repeat for the remaining bing and serve with Ginger Dipping Sauce.

Ginger Dipping Sauce

Ingredients: 

1/4 c tamari or soy sauce 

1/4 c rice vinegar 

1 t mirin (or sugar) 

1 t ginger, minced (or 1/4 t powdered ginger) 

1 t red pepper flakes 

small handful (~1/4 c) scallions, sliced 

Method:
This one’s easy: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.

If you like, then you could do this in a small pot over low heat (if you’re using sugar, then this will help the sugar dissolve faster). If cooking over heat, then reserve the sliced scallions and throw in at the end.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with cong you bing.

Garnishes: a sprinkle of scallions or red pepper flakes is really all that you need!
Goes well with: any East Asia entrée—like General’s Tofu or Sweet and Sour Tofu!—or potlucks!

Tags: ,