Wednesday, March 28, 2007

dad's pancakes - or trying to come close

Mark Bittman's article in today's New York Times focuses on various types of pancakes from different parts of the world. Like the ubiquitous dumpling, it seems that pretty much every culture has some kind of pancake, and most of them are not meant to be covered in maple syrup and served for breakfast. When I think of savory pancakes, the first thing that comes to mind is my father's scallion pancakes. He would often make a stack of those for me on the random day when I was home from school and would be lounging around the house all day. I would devour a bunch at lunchtime, then they would sit out in the kitchen calling to me for the rest of the day. Popping them into the toaster for a few minutes would recrisp the edges and brown them even further. I could continually eat them all day.

My father doesn't cook very often anymore and his scallion pancakes are only one of dozens of his dishes that I miss. It seems that no restaurant version comes remotely close. The kind I've made myself - trying to duplicate exactly what I've seen him do on dozens of occasions - does come a lot closer, but as with all of his dishes that I've attempted, there's always something mysterious missing. I guess that's the magic of the great cook. My recipe after the jump:

Almost My Dad's Scallion Pancakes


2 cups flour
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped scallions, green and white parts
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
white pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil


Mix together the flour and water and knead into a smooth, workable dough. It should not be too sticky or too hard, you may need to adjust the amount of flour or water to get the right consistency. Pull off a large handful of dough and cover the rest with plastic film or a slightly damp kitchen towel. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a thin round, the thinner the better. Sprinkle several drops of sesame oil evenly onto the disk. (I usually use a pastry brush to lightly and evenly brush the oil on, I find that prevents adding too much.) Sprinkle with salt and white pepper, then sprinkle chopped scallions evenly over the surface. Roll the disk up away from you like a jelly roll, rather tightly but not so tightly that you break the dough. Then, starting at one end, roll up the log from one end to the other into a large spiral. You should be rolling parallel to your work surface so that the spiral is laying flat, it should basically look like a snail laying on its side. Tuck the end of the log under the spiral and flatten it against the board with the palm of your hand. Using the rolling pin, roll the spiral out to about 1/8 inch thick, or however thick you like it. I like it on the thin side. Continue this process with the remaining dough, stacking the completed pancakes on a plate with slightly damp paper towels or sheets of wax paper separating them. A light dusting of flour on each pancake helps prevent sticking as well.

To cook: Heat a tablespoon of oil on a skillet on medium-high. (I personally do not like using too much oil, I prefer a pancake that it pan-fried, not deep-fried. So there should not be so much oil that the pancake gets immersed.) Pan fry the pancake on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Cut into wedges.

The classic accompaniment for scallion pancakes is a soy dipping sauce similar to one served with dumplings. I usually just combine soy soy with a splash of white vinegar, a couple drops of sesame oil, and whatever scallions I have left over after making the pancakes. Of course, if you season your pancakes well enough, you shouldn't even need sauce because these are delicious as they are.

The technique of rolling the dough into a log and then into a spiral before rolling out again creates the great layered flaky pancake that I love to eat by peeling off the layers one by one. And yes, I would eat an entire pancake at a time, so there wasn't much point in cutting them into wedges...

1 comment:

B said...

droooooooooooooooooooool :-)