It was hard being Chinese and born/raised in America. Even though I lived on the West Coast where Chinese food was prevalent and pretty authentic, it wasn’t widely accepted by kids my own age. I was constantly teased about everything that I ate. There was a basil seed drink that I had loved. There was a lot of sugar in it so it was definitely a sometimes treat. One time, my mom packed it for lunch. I was so excited! I couldn’t believe that my mom had packed me one as a treat! But the kids gave me hell. They said I was weird and that I was drinking fish eyes. I tried to explain what it was but then the chanting began, “Fish eyes! Fish eyes! Sandy drinks fish eyes!” I never wanted another basil seed drink ever again. And I tried to avoid bringing Chinese food to school.
If I could talk to my 8 year old self today, I’d tell her to ignore everyone. Unfortunately, I don’t have Pim Particles (yes, I watched Endgame) to help me travel through the quantum realm. But as an adult now, I know I don’t need to hide my love for ethnic foods. The newest culinary trend is Chinese flavors and I’m really excited that so many childhood flavors are making a comeback. Right now, it’s the White Rabbit candy, kaya, dumplings, and jook. This is why I’ve started to make a lot of my childhood favorite foods.
Green onion pancake, also known as scallion pancake, is made from unleavened dough rather than batter, like the American pancake. It is a savory flatbread that is flakey and crisp. It typically has green onions in it, but there are some varieties with fillings. The green onion pancake is normally eaten as a breakfast as it’s easy to eat while on the go. The pancake is sold as street food and also in restaurants as an elevated dish. The history of the green onion pancake is not really clear, but there is a myth that the Italian pizza came from the green onion pancake. The story goes that Marco Polo returned to Italy and missed the green onion pancakes so much that he commissioned chefs to make something similar. Somehow, the fillings were placed on top instead and it became a success. The chefs continued to experiment and added tomato sauce and cheese. Is this story true? Who knows. I’m just glad real Chinese food and flavors are making a huge comeback in the culinary scene!
Green Onion Pancakes
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
- 1 cup diced green onions (green parts only)
- Step 1 In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sesame oil, and hot water with a wooden spoon or spatula until a dough comes together.
- Step 2 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.
- Step 3 Return dough to bowl and cover with a wet cloth/paper towel and allow to rest for 1 hour.
- Step 4 Cut the green onions into rounds and set aside.
- Step 5 Turn the dough out again onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another minute.
- Step 6 Evenly divide the dough into 8 pieces. Place the other 7 pieces under a wet cloth/paper towel and work on one piece at a time.
- Step 7 Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thin as possible on a lightly flour surface. It should be around 9″ in size.
- Step 8 Brush the dough surface with a light coating of butter and sprinkle a small handful of green onions.
- Step 9 Beginning at one end, slowly roll up the dough into a tight log.
- Step 10 Roll the log to form a disc and, using the rolling pin again, roll out the dough once more to around 5″ in diameter.
- Step 11 Set dough aside and begin assembling next pancake.
- Step 12 Once all the pancakes are assembled, heat a small amount of oil in a medium sized skillet over medium high heat.
- Step 13 Place a pancake in and pan fry on each side until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Flip and pan fry the other side.