Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chinese Onion Pancakes

My mom lives a few hours away. Since I got married, we've become really close. One of the things I absolutely love doing is cooking with her. Not only do I get to learn the recipes I grew up on, my mom dishes about all our old family secrets - and I love hearing about our family dirt.
In my opinion, family recipes are one of the most important ways to preserve family tradition. There are countless recipes I remember from my childhood - some of which I'll never taste again since they weren't written down and lost with passing relatives. This blog is another way of preserving family traditions so they don't get lost when someone passes on. My mom and I started this new thing where we teach each other how to cook things. She teaches me Chinese food, I teach her American food. It's been a lovely partnership.

My mom's always been the type to mock me when I ask for a recipe of hers. She's old school. No measurements. Everything goes by feel and taste. A bowl of this, a sprinkle of that. But since I started teaching her how to make things - some baked goods in particular, she's turned a new leaf realizing that just because you don't go by memory, doesn't make you any less legitimate of a cook.

One of my favorite things to eat - and one of Gabe's proclaimed "Absolute Favorite Foods" (which I swear he says about everything), is my mom's dumplings. This obviously isn't a post about those dumplings but every time we get together and make them, we always make these Chinese Onion Pancakes with the leftover dough. Yes, they're a little bit of work, but we have nothing better to do on those weekends where we've already had dim sum, visited the mall and the Macy's One Day Sale is just NOT doing it for us.

Here's what you'll need:
We got a wild hair that day and added cilantro to the mix. My mom doesn't care for the taste of fresh cilantro but the flavor definitely mellows when you fry them up in these pancakes. If you don't like, just omit.

The dough. Super simple: flour & water. Mix in a stand mixer for a few minutes. It's a pretty tough dough - dryer than normal bread doughs. We shape into about 4 oz. pieces. Think hockey puck size. It's just a general measurement, no need to bust out a scale.


Roll out.
Rolling, rolling, rolling..
Takes a little elbow grease, but it's worth it!

Almost there, Mom.

Roll it out to about a 1/8" thickness, super thin. Try going as thin as you can w/o tearing it.

Then, sprinkle w/ some sesame oil, about 1 tsp. per pancake. Spread it around to cover the entire surface of the dough then sprinkle w/ salt - about 1/2 tsp.
Sesame seeds..

Scallions. 1/4 to 1/3 cup per pancake.

Cilantro. 1/4 cup per pancake.

Then start rolling up as tight as you can w/o tearing it.

Roll it up, like a cigar.

Start rolling the whole thing up into one large roll, as tightly as you can w/o tearing. And if it tears a little, who cares?

Then take one end and roll into the center and wind this thing up all around.

Like a little pinwheel.

When you get to the end, tuck the outer edge under the pancake and press the whole thing down.

You want to flatten the whole thing out to about an inch or less.

The flatter you make it, the quicker it will cook.

I wrap in wax paper. You can use parchment or even plastic wrap if you like.

You can freeze at this point. After they're frozen solid, put them in a plastic zip top bag and freeze for up to 1 month. You want to cook right away, heat a skillet to medium high heat and about 1 tbsp. light oil - I like canola.
When it's hot, place the pancake in the pan and if frozen, cover with a lid along with a splash of water. Turn the heat down to medium low.
After about 4 minutes, uncover and flip.
Leave for another 5 minutes on medium low, flip and it should look like this.
Me likey.
Let it sit for another 5 minutes and it should be nice and golden brown on the other side.
The crust is nice and crispy. Inside is moist because of the onions and sesame oil.
The water and covering w/ a lid helps keep the pancakes moist.
Cut into wedges, and cook more - these things are addictive!

Chinese Onion Pancakes
makes roughly 4 pancakes

3 c. flour
1 c. water, lukewarm (about 110 degees F)

2 c. scallions, chopped
1 c. cilantro, chopped - optional
4 tsp. sesame oil
4 tsp. sesame seeds - optional

Mix the flour in a stand mixer and slowly add water. The dough's consistency should be fairly tough. When pinched, the dough should spring back pretty quickly. You may need to adjust more water or flour as you go.

Divide the dough into roughly 4 oz. pieces, keep dough covered under a damp towel if the air is dry. Flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1/8" thickness. Drizzle about 1 tsp of oil on your rolled out dough. The round should be about 12-15" in diameter. Sprinkle w/ sesame seeds and salt - I added about 1/2 tsp. of each. Add about 1/4 - 1/3 c. chopped scallions and 1/4 c. cilantro (if adding). Start at one end and start rolling like a large cigar. Then when it's all rolled up, wind the log like a pinwheel, tuck the end under the roll. Flatten to about 1" thickness.

Heat a skillet on medium high heat with about 2 tsp. light oil. When the oil starts to ripple, place the pancake in and reduce the heat to medium low. Let a crust form - about 4 minutes, then flip. Cook on the other side for another 5 minutes with a lid on. If the pan is too hot, add a few splashes of water in before covering with a lid. After the 5 minutes, flip again and let cook uncovered for 5 minutes. This last 5 minutes can be skipped if cooking fresh and not from a frozen state.

If you want to serve several, cook in batches and keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.


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