Saturday, March 22, 2014

What's Cooking at Our House: Chinese-Style Onion Flatbread

This pan-fried flatbread has a unique layered, chewy texture that is more like a savory bread than a pancake.

This scallion (green onion) flatbread is a popular street food in the less glitzy neighborhoods in China. We first tasted it in Shanghai in 2000.

This flatbread is also called scallion pancake, but pancake confuses two different Chinese recipes: one is a batter that is poured into a skillet (like conventional pancakes) while the other is a pizza-type dough that is rolled out and pan-fried.
This pan-fried flatbread has a unique layered, chewy texture that is more like a savory bread than a pancake.

Roll/stretch out the dough, smear with sesame oil, lightly salt to taste and generously sprinkle on the finely sliced green onions. Some people add a few pepper flakes for zest. (For context, this cutting board is about 13 inches square.)

Roll up the flattened square:

Crimp the seam and the ends of the roll:

Spiral the roll into a snail shape, and then crimp the end into the "snail."

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, flour the board, press the spiral flat with the palm of your hand and then use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to skillet-size:

Lightly oil the skillet and cook the flatbread on both sides for about 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Slice into pieces and serve.

Well-known chef Martin Yang provides this recipe and video:
Cong You Bing (Scallion Pancakes)

Here's another recipe to review: we use much less salt than either of these recipes:

Pan-Fried Scallion Bread From Barbara Tropp's book The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking

While this may look a bit daunting to beginners (it certainly did to me), it's basically a pizza dough that is quick to mix and easy to roll out. Those who make their own pizza crusts will see this as a variation of flatbread that is pan-fried rather than baked.

The preparation of this flatbread lends itself to sharing the various tasks or cooking with kids. Each of the multiple steps teaches a basic skill that can be applied to other recipes, and the flatbread is forgiving and not finicky.

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." 

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