An easy-to-follow step-by-step pictorial on how to make Chinese spring onion pancakes, the authentic way as taught to me by a Beijing resident. These crispy, flaky pancakes are delicious eaten on its own, or as an accompaniment to your favourite saucy dishes.
In China, spring onion pancakes are served up as part of a meal, or as a snack, though they are fabulous as a light meal at any time of the day.
I was recently taught how to make these delicious pan-fried Chinese spring onion pancakes by a very good friend, Mdm Wang, a resident of Beijing. This is authentic Chinese style which I learnt first-hand – the recipe and technique is traditional, but unbelievably easy to learn and apply, and the pancakes always turn out great.
These pancakes are pan-fried in olive oil until just crispy, even flaky, on the outside, with cooked, softer, chewy layers speckled with sesame-flavoured spring onion bits and chopped Chinese green onion on the inside. I often prepare these as an appetiser, and they are spectacularly delicious when eaten with my chilli paprika chicken. This pairing is just perfect, and go so well together that I try to make it a point to cook both dishes on the same day. You could have these with your favourite hot sauce.
I was fortunate enough to be taught the technique, step by step. I decided that it would thus be easier to incorporate a step-by-step pictorial here on the method to prepare the filling and dough, as well as the process of kneading and rolling to incorporate the filling and create the layers. If you can achieve pan-fried pancakes with several, distinct, separated layers on the inside, then you will have truly succeeded!
I realise the instructions may seem very lengthy, only because of the way the dough has to be rolled and handled to achieve the desired layers. I hope the pictures will convey just how easy it really is to do this.
Chinese Spring Onion Pancakes
For the dough :
- 250 g plain flour
- 3/4 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup warm water (40°C)
For the filling :
- 4 stalks spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 stalk Chinese green onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
- 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil, for pan frying
Make the filling :
- In a bowl, combine finely chopped spring onions and Chinese green onion with sesame oil and white pepper (if using). Set aside.
Make the dough :
- Measure out plain flour into a large bowl. Sprinkle 3/4 tbsp olive oil over the surface. Drizzle a little water over the surface of the flour (do not be tempted to pour), no more than 2 tbsp of water each time. Using a pair of chopsticks (do not use your hands), start mixing the flour with the oil and water.
- Keep drizzling roughly the same amount of water into areas of loose flour, mixing until it has been absorbed, before drizzling more. The flour will increasingly become curdled and resemble scrambled eggs. Keep scraping flour off the sides of the bowl back into the dough mixture.
- Repeat until all the loose flour has been absorbed, including the bits of flour sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl. Once the dough begins to come together, and no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the bowl, do not add any more water even if you have not used all of it. At this point, use lightly floured hands to gather the dough into a ball in the centre of the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth. Set aside, covered, for 30 minutes. After the required time, divide the dough into two equal portions.
- On a lightly floured surface, using flour-dusted hands, lightly knead one portion for about half a minute or so, until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch.
- Gather back into a ball.
- Roll out into a large, round dough sheet about 3-mm in thickness (lightly dust your counter surface with flour wherever dough starts to stick).
- Pour 1 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil in the centre of the dough sheet.
- Using both hands, bring in sections of the dough from the edges (perimeter) towards the centre, one section at a time.
- Without letting go, dab lightly on the oil to coat the overlapping surfaces, and return the section to the perimeter.
- Repeat this all around, until the entire surface area of the dough sheet is evenly coated with oil.
- Sprinkle half of the sea salt, evenly, all over the oiled dough sheet. Spread half of the filling in an even layer over the dough sheet, leaving about a 1-cm or 1/2-inch border.
- Starting from the bottom right corner of the dough sheet, start rolling the dough.
- Work towards the opposite top left corner (again lightly dusting the dough with flour in places where the dough sticks to the surface)
- Once completely rolled up, coil one end into itself and under the rest of the roll, such that the end is in contact with the counter surface.
- Then turn the rest of the roll round on itself, coiling upwards like a spring coil, as you turn. As you reach the other end of the roll, turn or tuck the end in, into the coil, effectively sealing it.
- Flatten the coiled dough by applying controlled pressure with the palm of your hand (do not slam or punch down).
- Using light pressure, so as to try to keep the chopped onion bits enclosed, roll out into a 1-cm or 1/2-inch thick pancake. Always roll from the centre out to the edges. Transfer to a lightly floured dish.
- Repeat these steps with the remaining dough portion, so you will have two pancakes.
Fry the pancakes :
- Heat up some olive oil a large skillet over low heat. Once oil is hot, place one pancake in the centre of the skillet. Cover with lid, and let fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the side is cooked and pancake is a lovely, speckled golden brown colour. Flip the pancake over, cover with lid, and pan-fry for another 2 to 3 minutes, until side is cooked and golden brown. Do not be tempted to add more oil.
- When cooked, turn off heat. Using a pair of grip tongs, grip the centre of the pancake and turn it upright so that it is on its side. While gripping it, lightly knock it on its side, onto the skillet base, to loosen or 'open up' the layers within the pancake. Place it back down in the skillet, and repeat until the pancake has been 'knocked' all around its sides. When done, dish out onto a serving plate.
- When done, dish out onto a serving plate.