Scallion pancakes, or cong you bing, are flaky and crispy on the outside, and chewy and flavor-packed on the inside. Originally from China, this savory, multilayered unleavened bread has the mild grassy-onion flavor of scallions and the distinctively nutty flavor of toasted sesame oil. Add to that the fermentation flavors of sourdough starter, and these scallion pancakes unforgettable — so worth the effort of rolling and coiling the dough multiple times.
The recipe below is a spin off of the “Extra-Flaky Scallion Pancakes Recipe” of Kenji Lopez-Alt on SeriousEats.com. My modifications consist of adding sourdough starter (discard) and reducing the water to compensate. You can make 4-5 pancakes with the slightly larger dough in my recipe. I made five and they fit nicely in my 10-inch nonstick pan.
Crispy, chewy, and flavorful
Scallion pancakes do take a little more effort because of the layering of the dough, however, they’re a good example of the saying, “Perfection is the enemy of good.” Your circles can be more like amoebas, a few scallions can break through the dough, and the final product will still blow you away. See the photo gallery after the recipe for more photos of every step.
Rolled and coiled to “perfectly” good.
The dipping sauce in the recipe below is a combination of the one included in Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe and one I’d made from the food prep list of the dumpling-making class of Mei Mei Restaurant. I have made those delicious dumplings, and at some point I’ll actually take the class to improve my shaping.
Scallion Pancakes with Sourdough Discard
Scallion pancakes are a savory treat bursting with flavor even before you add sourdough starter to the equation. With the added fermentation flavors and the tangy soy-vinegar dipping sauce, these scallion pancakes will wow you. The extra layers and amazing flakiness come from multiple rounds of rolling and spiraling, a technique in the original recipe of Kenji Lopez-Alt.
salt for sprinkling on the finished pancakes (optional)
30g soy sauce (2 Tbsp)
30g chinkiang (black) vinegar OR rice vinegar with a dash of balsamic (2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp extra-finely sliced scallions
1 small clove garlic smashed and minced
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp chili oil (optional)
In a bowl or food processor, combine the flour and sourdough discard.
Drizzle in the boiling water while running the food processor or stirring, and stop when the dough comes together.
Transfer the dough to a flat surface and knead it for a few minutes, then let it rest, covered, for about a half hour.
Chop the scallions for the pancakes, avoiding or slicing extra-fine the white portions that are stiffer and more likely to tear the dough.
You can also make the dipping sauce during this 30-minute dough rest.
Divide the dough into 4 or 5 pieces and knead them into balls.
Prepare a slightly damp cloth or flour sack towel and cover any dough you’re not currently working with. Set a small bowl with your sesame oil and basting brush near your work surface.
With a rolling pin, roll one of the dough balls into a thin circle. You should need almost no dusting flour and be able to see your fingers through the dough if you lift it. Brush sesame oil on the dough circle and roll it up like a cigar. Then spiral it into a snail shape. Dampen the end of the spiral if needed to make it stick and not uncoil, and with your palm gently press down on the entire spiral a little bit.
Place the spiral under your towel and repeat with all the dough balls.
With a rolling pin, roll one of the spirals into a thin circle (not quite as thin as the first round). Brush sesame oil on the dough and then spread chopped scallions on it. Roll the dough up like a cigar and spiral it into a snail shape. Dampen the end of the spiral if needed to make it stick and not uncoil, and with your palm gently press down on the entire spiral a little bit.
Place the now double-rolled spiral under your towel and repeat with the other dough spirals.
Heat the cooking oil in a nonstick pan until it is shimmering and prepare a platter or cooling rack with several paper towels spread on it.
Roll one of the spirals flat and place it in the hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, carefully flipping with tongs, until each side is golden brown, then place it on the paper towels.
While one pancake is frying, roll out the next spiral. If needed, add a little more oil to the pan for the final pancake(s).
Sprinkle lightly with salt if desired. (I tend to go heavy on the dipping sauce and thus don’t find salt necessary.)
Serve immediately, cut into wedges and alongside the dipping sauce.
Leftovers can be reheated in a toaster oven or on a dry frying pan.