Cong You Bing (Scallion Pancakes)
Cong You Bing means literally scallion oil pancake and is a very practical description. It is flavored with scallions, sesame oil and salt, and is an unleavened cake cooked on a flat griddle or pan. These snacks are popular over many parts of central and northern China and Taiwan. As flatbread, cong you bing shares similarities with an almost infinite variety of breads in nearly every country on earth. Because they are delicious, cheap and easy to prepare, flatbreads are often a street food favorite, sold by vendors using flat steel or iron pans fired by coal or propane. The same is true in China, although variations in size, thickness and ingredients exist, including the use of meat, peppercorns, and eggs (see our video from Shanghai, at the bottom of this post) This recipe is the simplest and most widely known. The key is to utilize a very wet dough, so long as it can be managed by using enough oil on the work surface and hands. The recipe below uses 65% water. Also, one will find that storing the dough for some time is helpful as well, 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator, or 1 or two days at room temperature. If time is an issue, however, this long storage is not absolutely necessary to achieve an adequate texture. Although the several photos below might mislead one into thinking this flatbread is difficult, in fact, the recipe is extremely easy to prepare
10 oz all purpose flour4 – 6 Scallions, white and green portion, chopped1/2 tsp salt1 Tab peanut oil4 oz (by weight) of boiling water2.5 oz (by weight) of cold water
Make the dough by adding the boiling water and stirring with a wooden spoon; when it is well incorporated, add the cold water and continue mixing until it is smooth. Allow to cool, pat the mound into a ball with an oiled spatula or hands, and set aside, covered, for a day or two in the refrigerator.
Turn out the dough on an oiled surface and flatten into a rectangle, approximately 1/4” thick and cut into 4 rectangles (this can vary according to the finished size you prefer). With an oiled roller, roll out each rectangle to 1/8” or so, and brush with sesame oil. Sprinkle with course salt, according to taste. Sprinkle 2 or 3 tablespoons of chopped scallion evenly over the flats and roll up, beginning from the long edge, and when rolled, pinch together to seal. From either end of the “rope,” roll up the dough into a coil and seal the end. Place the coil flat, and roll into a disk of approximately 1/8” thick and 5 or 6” in diameter.
Heat a flat, preferably cast iron pan to medium high heat. Add peanut oil to a depth of 1/8” or more. When oil is just smoking, place pancake into oil and fry on each side until golden brown.