… from the Perspectives’ Kitchen
How you doin’? Last week I was talking to Earl, one of our client’s managers in Kayenta, Arizona. Never heard of it? It might be because it’s in the middle of Navajo Indian reservation, just at the entry of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Aside from it being so near to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, there isn’t a lot to do in Kayenta.
There’s a Sonic, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Edge and Church’s Fried Chicken (which continually runs out of chicken) and a Hampton Inn which serves great dinners. There is also a Chinese restaurant where Earls says he’ll only eat the noodles. He was telling me he really misses great Scallion Pancakes that he used to order in another part of the country—you know the ones with lots of flaky layers.
We developed a great recipe for this simple appetizer for both China Rose and China Coast. You may have seen a similar recipe that Martin Yan demonstrated on Yan Can Cook. It is both simple and ingenious. It combines water, flour and a little patience.
With most breads and pastries, cold or room temperature liquid is added to flour before kneading. There are two major proteins in flour, glutenin and gliadin. There is a little chemistry and physics involved here and when they get wet and are rubbed around (like kneading), they stretch out and bind with other glutenin and gliadin molecules, forming the stretchy protein matrix known as gluten.
Gluten is what gives dough structure, and the more it's kneaded and worked, the tighter it becomes. A ball of well-kneaded cold water dough will spring back if you press it and contract if you stretch it. This is why pizza dough is extremely hard to roll out until it's had at least a few hours to rest, allowing the gluten to relax. The level of chewiness and stretch you get from a cold water dough is directly related to how vigorously it’s kneaded and how long it rests. Okay, forget all this…it was just written for context and a better understanding.
Scallion Pancakes 101
Hot water doughs—the type used to make scallion pancakes, dumpling wrappers, and several other Chinese pastries—work a little differently. By adding boiling water directly to flour, you end up not only denaturing the proteins, but smashing them into small pieces. Some gluten can still form, but because cooked proteins aren't nearly as stretchy or clingy as raw ones, you won't get anywhere near the stretch of a cold-water dough and they are far less touchy.
So, if airy, hole-filled bread is your goal, destroying the proteins is a bad thing. That’s why you always keeps yeasty waters below 109⁰ F. If you're looking for tender dumpling wrappers or scallion pancakes with just a little bit of a bite and chew, that's precisely what you want.
That’s the beauty of hot water doughs—they don’t bounce back as much as cold water doughs. This makes it extremely easy to roll out. That's a good thing when you're rolling scallion pancakes. Even better, because they have so little gluten development, you can work with them cool, making it easy to prepare your dough in the morning, chill it down and roll out it right before mealtime to make a laminated dough (which is where the flakiness come in).
Scallion pancakes are made by folding the dough over and over to create layers. The flat disks of dough are first brushed with sesame oil and sprinkled with scallions, then rolled up, jelly-roll style. The number of complete turns this process makes—five or so—depends on how tightly you roll it. After rolling, the log gets spiraled up like a snake.
Finally, it gets flattened out one last time, this time with the scallions tucked neatly inside. A quick fry in hot oil later, and you're done. Crispy, slightly chewy, flaky, filled with scallions, and by the way, delicious.
Cooking scallion pancakes at high heat cooks them unevenly. That's not what you want. On the other hand, cook them on low heat and the pancakes soak up too much oil until they’re totally saturated, making it greasy instead of light and crisp. Moderate heat with a good amount of oil and constant swirling is the best way to get even browning and, flaky layers—just follow my directions below.
Prep time: 35 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Fry time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 pancakes (24 wedges)
For the pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup toasted sesame seed oil
2 cups thinly sliced scallions green tops
For the dipping sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I prefer Kikkoman)
2 tablespoons Chinkiang or rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely sliced scallion greens
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
For frying the pancakes
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I prefer peanut oil)
To make the pancakes
To make the sauce
To cook the pancakes
ChefSecret: Here's are my six easy steps to make the best China Rose Scallion Pancakes:
1. Combine flour and water until workable dough is formed.
2. Knead (kneading is a good thing).
3. Add scallions.
4. Knead some more.
5. Roll out with a rolling pin, and fry.
6. Serve with salt, vinegar-soy sauce.
Quip of the Day: Confucius says, “Know the origin of your food and enjoy.”
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To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America and/or American Red Cross.
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