Food doesn’t get much simpler than cong you bing – Chinese scallion “pancakes”. These are actually an unleavened bread filled with spring onions and fried — classic street fare. As with all breads they are best when fresh and with just the right amount of oil — so they are hot, flaky, moist, salty and moreish!
The pancakes are cheap to buy from Shanghainese restaurants, but making bread is always fun. So when I came across a recipe in Serious Eats (originally from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook) that claimed the pancakes are easier to make than you expect I decided to give it a crack. I was slightly sceptical given the multiple steps required to flatten, roll, scroll then flatten again — it sounds like something easy to mess up on your first attempt. But I have to concede it really was simpler than I thought!
The rolling was no problem at all — things held together well and even when the onions poked through the dough it was not a real issue. The oil actually made it easier to roll than some other breads as it helps stop things from sticking. The only trick was getting the hang of how much oil and salt you need to get the flavour you expect. As noted by the recipe and on Serious Eats, you really do need to be liberal with all of the filling, including the salt, to get a tasty end result. After my first attempt was slightly dry and bland I made a few adjustments was not disappointed!
I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter, although my modifications were pretty minor. The largest change was using several more spring onions than the recipe called for. Also, instead of the prescribed peanut oil, I used a mix of vegetable and sesame oil, because I just love the sesame aroma. It’s a pretty simple recipe to play with, so I’ll probably be more adventurous in future. I encourage you all to give it a go and add some imagination!