It’s seldom that I’m stunned by a food hack. I’m often wowed, sure—but this scallion pancake trick had me sit-down-shook. It’s relievingly simple, uncannily identical in flavor to the “real” thing, and completely takes out the trouble and doubt that comes with dough making. This one is for the time-crunched scallion pancake fiends, and the passionate cooks who can’t seem to get those flaky layers right. Grab some dumpling wrappers and let’s get layering.
What are scallion pancakes?
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Scallion pancakes, also called Cong You Bing, are crispy, chewy, flaky, fried dough that’s riddled with fragrant scallions. They’re savory, salty, and pair well on the side of soup, noodles, or on their own as a snack. Scallion pancakes originate from China and can vary slightly in method and fillings depending on where they’re made, and often they’re listed as an appetizer or side in Chinese restaurants. If you haven’t tried them yet, this quick version can help, but you should order some at a restaurant too.
Made-from-scratch scallion pancakes require a dough usually made from flour, water, salt, and maybe oil. Like all doughs, consistency is important, and this one has to be flexible, but not sticky. Then, depending on the recipe, the dough is usually flattened out, layered with scallion and oil, then rolled, swirled, and flattened again. If this sounds confusing to make, it can be.
I came across this hack from The Woks of Life and thought it might be too good to be true, but if it could work, then the game would, as they say, be changed. And the worst thing that could happen is I’d have delicious, oniony fried dough, so why not give it a whirl? The trick to these scallion pancakes is forgetting the hand-made dough completely and using round dumpling wrappers instead. They usually come in packs of about 50, all stacked up and wrapped in plastic film. They freeze and thaw like a dream, so you’ll usually find them in the freezer section of most markets and grocery stores. If you don’t finish the package in one go, you can also wrap them and freeze them for the future.
Here are a couple of dumpling wrappers I use, in both circular and square shapes:
Dumpling wrappers are made from the same ingredients as scallion pancake dough: flour, water, and salt (with the addition of a little cornstarch to prevent sticking, and sodium benzoate as a preservative). Fill and fry them like a scallion pancake, and it’s no wonder why they’re spot-on.
How to make simple scallion pancakes
You only need three ingredients to get it done, and a hot, oily frying pan. The round dumpling wrappers are your dough, pre-made and shaped. All you have to do is layer. Finely chop a couple of scallions, and have salt and oil at the ready. Take one round of the thawed dumpling dough and place it on the counter. They’re dusted with cornstarch to prevent sticking so you don’t need to worry about flouring your work surface.
Use a pastry brush and slather a thin coat of neutral cooking oil onto the wrapper. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt, and about a teaspoon of the scallion bits. Lay a second dumpling wrapper on top and press down. Repeat the oil, salt, and scallion pinch so you have a total of five dumpling wrappers.
Using a rolling pin, start in the center and roll out. Turn the dough to roll out the opposite end. It’s normal for the oil and cornstarch to make a paste and ooze out a bit. Pick up the pancake and flip it over, so the bottom is now facing up. Roll again to get a circular shape. Rotate, and flip top to bottom, every other roll, until you get a circle about five inches in diameter. If you don’t flip top to bottom, the bottom wrapper won’t stretch along with the others.
Add about a tablespoon of neutral oil—I use canola—to a frying pan, and heat over medium-low. Fry the pancake for about two or three minutes per side. Each side should have deep brown, blotchy areas and little bubbles along the dough. Make sure the pan has enough oil in it. The oil should very slightly pool and bubble along the edges of each pancake, and you’ll need to top up the pan every now and again, between pancakes, and maybe even between flips. This is a fried dough, so just embrace it now and bask in its glory.
This pancake is legit. It’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, slightly salty, and intensely scallion-powered. Every bite is flaky (thank you, layered wrappers) and threaded with tender green slivers. Like all properly fried foods, mysteriously, it won’t feel greasy.
The only thing I missed about handmade dough is the tenderness–emotionally and physically. A handmade pancake has a soft stretchiness to it that you can’t get with the dumpling wrappers. You can add a couple more dumpling wrappers to make thicker pancakes but you have to cook them a tad longer, and though they’ll be thicker, they aren’t more tender.
That being the only small downside, these fill my scallion pancake needs through and through. When it comes to a quick scallion pancake that can be accessible to anyone, the chefs and dough-frustrated alike, this trick is unparalleled. Try it out, and enjoy a fabulous allium-centric snack.
Simple Scallion Pancakes with Dumpling Wrappers
(adapted from The Woks of Life)
- 5, 10, or 15 dumpling wrappers (5 wrappers per 1 pancake)
- 3 scallions, minced
- 3-5 tablespoons canola oil (or other neutral oil)
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
Pour about two tablespoons of oil into a small bowl. You’ll use this to brush the wrappers. The rest of the oil will be for the frying pan.
Place a dumpling wrapper onto the counter and, using a pastry brush, swipe with oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt, and a pinch of the minced scallions on top. Add another dumpling wrapper and repeat. Do this until you have five wrappers and four layers of scallions. Use a rolling pin to flatten the pancake until it is a circle about five inches across. Don’t forget to rotate the dough, and flip it over from bottom to top so all of the wrappers stretch evenly. The dough will become quite thin and all of the layers will stick together as one.
Over medium-low heat, add about a tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and fry the pancake for about two or three minutes per side. The finished pancake will have deeply browned patches and small bubbles. Repeat with all of your pancakes. Cut into quarters and serve.