Friday, April 27, 2007

Green Onion Pancake - Weekend Herb Blogging

This week is my first foray into Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Glenna of A Fridge Full of Food, and I’m featuring my favorite herb, the green onion. The green onion, also called the scallion or spring onion (or shallot in Australia), is a member of the allium family which includes the onion, garlic, leek, and many others. Technically speaking, scallions are younger and do not have a bulb whereas green onions have a small partially formed bulb, but for the most part, the names are used interchangeably. The green onion is an herb that’s indispensable in Chinese cooking and it’s the one herb I always have in my fridge. The green part is milder in flavor and is much like an herb whereas the white bulb is stronger and more oniony. Green onions are often served raw, but one thing I learned from my dad is to slice and panfry them quickly in a little bit of oil. He calls it “bao,” which means to burst. The flavor of the green onion bursts in hot oil, which changes the flavor and releases the aroma. Raw green onions can be a bit harsh and sometimes soapy tasting, but heating them in oil cuts the harshness, rounds out the flavor, and makes it much more aromatic. You’ll notice a big difference in the smell; raw green onions don’t really smell like anything but after panfrying, it smells amazingly fragrant. The green onions and hot oil is then added on top of foods like tofu or tossed in a salad.

Green onion pancakes (cong you bing) are a breakfast and snack staple in China and Taiwan. Unlike a traditional pancake, it is made with dough instead of batter. The end result is a chewy flatbread. Panfrying the pancakes releases the aroma from the green onion and makes them smell irresistible. Boiling hot water is used to gelatinize some of the gluten in the flour making a chewy pancake. A combination of hot and cold water creates a dual textured, chewy and crispy pancake. Whether you use all hot water or both hot and cold is up to you. Traditionally lard or peanut oil is brush the dough but I used butter instead.

Green Onion Pancake

2 1/2 C AP flour
3/4 C boiling water
1/4 C cold water
1/2 tsp salt
About 3 Tbsp butter, softened
About 3 Tbsp finely chopped green onion, 2 – 3 green onions
Oil for pan frying

Add flour and salt to a bowl, pour in hot water and stir to combine. Let the dough cool down a bit then add the cold water and knead the dough until smooth. You can do this in a standing mixer, food processor, or by hand.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rest for an hour.

Roll the dough into a snake and divide into 8 pieces. This will yield 6 in pancakes about 1/4-in thick. You can divide the dough into more pieces for smaller, cuter pancakes.

Take one piece of dough, leaving the rest covered, and roll it out into a large and thin circle, the thinner the circle the more layers the pancake will have. Spread a very thin layer of softened butter on the dough, about 1 teaspoon. Sprinkle or spread about a teaspoon of chopped green onions on top of the butter.

Roll up the dough into a tight tube. Then take the tube and form a coil and pinch the seam shut.

Do this to the remaining pieces of dough, so you have 8 rolls. You can chill it in the fridge for a few minutes to solidify the butter or just proceed to rolling them. Roll out each bun into a pancake, depending on the thickness you prefer. For a chewier pancake keep the pancake a little thicker; if you want a crispy thin pancake, roll it out thinner.

You can stack the pancakes in between sheets of plastic wrap and freeze the extras.

Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry each side of the pancake for a few minutes until it’s crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels to blot away excess oil. Cut into wedges and serve with soy sauce or soy paste if desired.

Yields: 8 6-in pancakes about 1/4-in thick.

Weekend Herb Blogging is a wonderful event created by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week it’s hosted by Glenna of A Fridge Full of Food.

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