Quarantine Bake Along: Scallion Pancakes (蔥油餅, Cong You Bing)

My late grandpa used to make delicious scallion pancakes for our family. He taught my mom his recipe and she has been making them ever since. Growing up, I would often have them in the freezer at the ready. My mom would also bring them to me during her visits when I was in college. Scallion pancakes have gotten me through plenty of empty refrigerator/pantry times throughout the years.

I introduced these to J when we were dating, and now he probably likes them more than I do. I finally got around to asking my mom for the recipe so now I make them whenever we have extra scallions. They take a bit of time but it’s always nice to have a stack of scallion pancakes in the freezer for when you want a snack. We often eat them for breakfast with a fried egg too.

A Brief Scallion Pancake History

The scallion pancake has been around for so long and its origins have passed into myth, folklore, and guesswork. It’s difficult to tell where it was first created, but many of the tales point to Shanghai, China (where my dad is from!). The scallion pancake greatly resembles an Indian flatbread known as paratha. There is a story in China that suggests pizza is an adaptation of the scallion pancake, brought back to Italy by Marco Polo. Marco Polo missed scallion pancakes so much that when he was back in Italy, he tried to find chefs willing to make the pancake for him. Not finding success, Marco Polo suggested the filling be put on top rather than inside the dough. The change, by chance, created a dish that formed into today’s pizza.

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or neutral oil
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Start by preparing the dough. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour and cup of boiling water with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms. The dough should be sticky, but not wet.
  2. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it forms a cohesive, smooth dough. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the flour and oil roux by combining the oil, salt, and flour. It needs to have the consistency of a paste–continue adding more flour if needed to get desired consistency. Set aside.
  4. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll each piece out into a thin circle. Next, take about 1 teaspoon of the roux and spread it across the entire circle of the dough. Take about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the chopped scallions and spread them generously and evenly over the roux.
  5. Next, roll the dough up into a log and then shape that log into a spiral (see photos). Using a rolling pin, roll out the spiral to desired thickness of pancake. Be gentle but don’t worry if the scallions tear through the layers. Just stuff them back in and keep rolling. Repeat with the rest.
  6. At this time, I’ll often stack the pancakes with layers of plastic wrap or parchment paper between each, stuff them into a plastic bag, and then freeze them for future use.
  7. When ready to cook, heat a pan over medium low heat until hot. Place the pancake in the pan. The pan should be hot enough so the dough is sizzling, but browning slowly. When the bottom is browned, turn the pancake over gently and let brown on the other side.
  8. Remove pancake and enjoy! If you like, now’s the time to sprinkle some extra salt on top to taste.

Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao)

I’ve been wanting to make homemade cha shao bao for a while now. I finally got my hands on some good BBQ pork (thanks mom!) and asked my grandma for her amazing man tou (steamed bread bun) recipe. Combine the two, and voila! You get these steamed pork buns.

When I called my grandma asking about her recipe, I should’ve expected that she would say she doesn’t have one. She just eyeballs and throws a bunch of things together. I was trying to listen to her list off her “recipe” in mandarin and translating it into something I could put numbers to. She said things like 3 spoons of oil and an unknown amount of warm water haha. I decided to give it a shot and it actually turned out!

This was my first time making them so they definitely didn’t come out 100%. I’ll continue learning with each time, but they’re still tasty either way. My first steam batch was a huge fail. I called my mom to ask what could’ve happened and she made me realize that I didn’t let the buns rise long enough the second time. My grandma didn’t mention a second rise so I’m glad my mom came to the rescue with that, saving the rest of the buns!

Ingredients

Steamed Bun Dough

  • 3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup warm water (90-110 F)

BBQ Pork Filling

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3/4 pound BBQ pork, diced
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • Red chili flakes, optional, to taste
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dough with a wooden spoon or chopsticks. It should come into a shaggy ball and most all the flour should be absorbed. Add more water or flour in small increments as necessary if not the right consistency.
  2. Place dough on clean surface and knead until smooth and elastic, just a few minutes.
  3. Return dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. In the meantime, make the filling. Add the sesame oil into a large pan and saute the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent and fragrant, several minutes. Add in the rice wine and let it cook and evaporate. Then, add in the pork and cook together for a few minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, combine all the rest of the filling ingredients except for the scallions. Stir well to dissolve corn starch and make a slurry.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture into the pan and cook until filling has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add in the scallions and stir. Set aside.
  7. Cut up 16 little squares from parchment paper or gather 16 cupcake liners.
  8. Once done rising, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 equally sized balls. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Roll each dough ball into rounds that are approximately 3.5″ diameter, making the middle portion thicker than the edges.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of the round. Fold by pleating the tops and then pinching it all together at the center.
  11. Place the bun onto a parchment square and set aside. Repeat for all 16 buns and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until double in size, between 15-60 minutes, depending on the temperature.
  12. Prepare steamer (preferably bamboo) with water and place over high heat to get it boiling. Add buns to the steam basket and steam for 12 minutes on high heat. Be sure not to check on the buns/remove the lid.
  13. Turn the heat off and let sit for another 5 minutes before enjoying!

Potsticker Dumplings

There’s much that I appreciate about my Asian heritage, especially the food, more so now than ever. Growing up Asian American was not easy and I felt like I had to subdue my Asian culture in order to be “cooler.” Along with this came me not appreciating a lot of traditional Asian foods that I am now so thankful for. Dumplings fell under that list of things. I have no idea why I didn’t like them that much growing up because now I fricken love them, especially in potsticker form.

Homemade potstickers/dumplings do take a bit of effort to make, but they’re so worth it. They taste SO much better. And they remind me of my childhood. These ones that I made are pork loin and cabbage. My mom always makes them with pork, shrimp, and Chinese chives. No matter what combination you use, they’ll turn out tasty!

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Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Ingredients

  • 300g all purpose flour
  • 200 ml boiling water
  • Pinch of salt

Filling

  • 2/3 lb (300g) pork, shrimp, beef, or mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 lb (200g) finely chopped vegetables (cabbage, bok choy, leeks, chives)
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced

Dipping Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar (or your favorite Asian vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil/peppers

To Cook

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 100 ml water

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour, salt and boiling water in a large bowl you have a rough ball shape. Remove from the bowl and knead for 10 minutes until smooth. Cover with cling film and rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Combine the pork mince, baking soda, corn starch, seasonings, and liquid ingredients. Stir vigorously in one direction until all the liquid is absorbed and the pork begins to bind to itself. Mix in the vegetables, spring onions, ginger and garlic.
  3. Lightly flour your work surface. Divide each piece of rested dough into 16 even-sized pieces. Lightly dust the dough pieces with flour. Place a piece onto the work surface with its cut side down, and flatten with a floured palm. Roll each piece of dough into a thin disc, roughly 8 cm in diameter. You can also roll the dough into 1mm thickness and use a 8 cm cookie cutter.
  4. Place a heaped teaspoon of filling into the center of each wrapper. Fold over into a half moon shape. Cradle the wrapper in one hand and use the other hand to create pleats along the edge furthest away from you, pinching the two edges together after each pleat as you go, to create a crescent shape. Avoid getting any filling on the edges and be sure to pinch firmly as you pleat to create a good seal.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the dumplings flat side down for about 2 minutes until a golden crust forms on the bottom. Add the cold water and immediately cover with a lid (or a heavy plate if your pan doesn’t have a lid). Let the steam cook the dumplings for 8 minutes or until all the water has evaporated. Remove the lid and let the dumplings to cook for a further minute until they lift off from the bottom of the pan easily. You might need a spatula to help them along if they are a little sticky, being careful not to break the wrapper.
  6. Repeat with the second batch. While the dumplings are cooking, prepare the spicy soy sauce by mixing sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili oil.
  7. Serve the dumplings in a big pile, making sure to show off the golden bottoms. Drizzle the spicy soy sauce on top, or serve on the side for dipping.
  8. You can always freeze the dumplings that you don’t use and pop them out whenever you want to eat them!

Adapted from Dumpling Sisters.

100% Whole Wheat Pancakes

I like pancakes, sometimes. They’re homey and great for the times that I want a sweet and hearty breakfast/brunch, but I often am content with eggs and avocado. If I do want pancakes though, I try to make them as “healthy” as I can by making them whole wheat. My husband claims he can tell the difference, but I honestly can’t. I think he’s just trying to give me crap for making everything whole wheat. These are fluffy, wonderful pancakes that give their non-whole wheat counterparts a run for their moolah.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp organic brown sugar or coconut sugar (omit if you don’t want sugar at all)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk with 1 Tbsp vinegar, let sit for 5 minutes)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Blueberries, chocolate chips, bananas, optional

Instructions

  1. Beat eggs and brown sugar in a mixing bowl with a wire whisk. Beat in oil and buttermilk until evenly combined. Add dry ingredients all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, lumps are okay!
  2. Ladle batter onto a hot, oiled griddle or skillet and top with any toppings you want. When bubbles form on the surface, flip to the other side and cook until both sides are golden brown. Serve immediately, with your choice of fixin’s.

Adapted from Inquiring Chef.

My Favorite French Toast

Best French toast I’ve ever made. Hands down. Try it with some day old homemade challah and you will thank yourself. Slightly crisp on the outside, moist and soft on the inside, it hits the perfect French toast balance. And isn’t soggy and disappointing.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream, or fruit.
  4. If you have any leftovers, feel free to freeze them and reheat in the toaster oven. Makes for a quick breakfast!

Adapted from Alton Brown.