L-R… Cong You Bing / Rolling up the scallions in the dough / inside view of the bing
Living in Chicago and being far away from Chinatown means that I can’t easily spoil myself with my Mama’s home cooking, or simply eat out at my favorite Chinese restaurant. While this has made me a little sad, there is also a bright side. (Team Glass Half Full: win!) The bright side is, I’ve had to start making a lot of my favorite food from scratch. This has been a wonderful way for me to eat healthier and preserve parts of my Chinese culture.
This past weekend, I had two dear friends over for xi fan since they’ve never had it before. For those who aren’t familiar, xi fan* is rice porridge that is common in virtually all Asian countries. (Xi fan is also known as congee, juk, zhou, etc.) I didn’t feel I could serve guests xi fan by itself, so I decided to make cong you bing,* aka scallion pancakes, to go with it. And guess how I learned to make it… from a Chinese cooking show someone uploaded onto YouTube! I watched the whole thing, pausing it to stop and write down instructions, and then had a go at it with my own little modifications the next morning. They were so delicious – hot and chewy with multiple layers of goodness; perfect dipped in xi fan, stuffed with soy sauce scrambled eggs, or on their own.
For me, cooking is a mixture of science, common sense and intuition. I give you estimates below, but feel free to use your own common sense and intuition to eyeball the salt and oil measurements. This recipe gave me about 8 scallion pancakes but you could make more or less out of the same ingredients depending on your desire.
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of very hot water + 1/2 cup cold water
1 heaping cup of chopped scallions
1 Tbsp. of sesame oil, approx.
1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil, approx.
(1) Pour the flour into a large bowl. Slowly add all of the hot water while stirring until the flour/water starts to shape a big ball. (Don’t touch, it’s hot!) Add a little bit of cold water as needed to get any extra flour off the sides. Gently knead it into a ball, incorporating all of the water, and set it aside in a plastic bag for about 20 minutes.
(2) While the dough is sitting, prepare the scallions. Cut the roots off and cut the white part of the scallion in half, then proceed to chop. Mix in about one-half teaspoon of salt and set aside. Also, combine the sesame and vegetable oil.
(3) Sprinkle your work space with flour and roll the dough out into a large, thin rectangle. (If your rolling pin gets sticky, pat some flour on it.) The flatter it is, the more layers you’ll have. The wider it is, the smaller your pancakes. Mine was roughly 14” x 24” and made 8 pancakes.
(4) Brush the dough with the sesame and vegetable oil mixture. Lightly sprinkle the oiled dough with salt, and then cover the dough with scallions, leaving the top two inches empty of scallions.
(5) Roll up the dough, length-wise, into a very long tube with the scallions inside. Don’t pull the dough – roll it up gently. Pinch and close each end of the tube.
(6) If you want one huge pancake, wrap the tube into a coil and flatten to your desired height. For smaller, individual sized pancakes, pinch off a few inches of the tube, about palm width (or desired size). With the pinched off dough in your hand, pinch and close the other side of the dough and then flatten slightly, length-wise (each pinched end of dough is pressed against your palms). Continue doing this with the rest of the dough.
(7) Roll out each semi-flattened pancake to the desired size. Mine were about 4” wide. Cook in a pan with oil until each side is golden brown. It will only take 2-3 minutes each side. Let them cool and drain of excess oil on top of a plate lined with chopsticks. Eat them while they’re hot!
If you’re interested in watching the video I watched, check ‘em out below! Even if you don’t understand Mandarin, it’s a nice visual to understand how to make the cong you bing (and learn how to pronounce it) I hope you try it!
Cong You Bing, Part 1 (Creating the dough, Steps 1-2 above)
Cong You Bing, Part 2 (What to do with the dough, Steps 3-7)
Cong You Bing, Part 3 (Final product!)
* My Little Guide to Pronouncing Mandarin…
Xi fan... Xi is pronounced like “she.” The “a” in fan is pronounced like the e in met. Cong you bing... Cong is pronounced like “tsong” – think of the “ts” in “boots” and that is the sound you make, followed by a long “o” as in “oh.” You is pronounced like “yo.” Bing is pronounced to rhyme with “thing.”