Spring onions, or scallions, are a member of the Allium family, closely related to garlic, chive, onion, and shallot. Tender, with a long slender neck and white bulb, they are harvested early before the bulb has time to mature. They are mild in flavour and the entire length can be used; the bulb contains stronger flavours, while the crisp green stems are more chive-like. While their mellow character makes them ideal for eating raw in salads or sprinkled over a stir-fry, they're also delicious and nutritious when lightly cooked.
While I tend to use spring onions raw, once in a while the idea of these flaky and crispy Chinese pancakes sound too good to pass up. With a slight chew when you bite into their delicious layers, strewn with green flecks of fresh spring onion, they are aromatic and addictive. Think more savoury Indian paratha than American fluffy sweet pancake. In Asia Cong You Bing are often street fare, served hot from food carts and ready for salty-spicy dipping for breakfast with warm homemade soymilk.
I have taken a traditional recipe and 'wholefooded' it, swapping chicken fat for coconut or sesame oil, replacing refined white flour for wholemeal spelt, and simply pan cooking instead of frying in an oil bath. It takes a bit of time to make these, but the ingredients are simple and the finished golden product is worth your effort.
2 cups of Wholemeal Spelt Flour (or regular flour), plus a bit extra for dusting countertop
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Vegetable Bouillon Powder (or extra salt)
3/4 cup Boiling Water
2 tablespoons oil for brushing pancakes, liquid Coconut or Sesame Oil
1 bunch Spring Onions
Oil for pan, preferably with a high smoke point, such as Avocado, Sesame, or Peanut
The How To:
Place the 2 cups of flour, salt, and bouillon powder in a large bowl; mix. Slowly add the water to the flour bowl, kneading as you go, until a soft, pliable dough forms (it may not be necessary to use all the water, or it's possible you'll need a touch more; all depends upon your flour). Once you have a smooth and shiny ball of dough you can place it in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel for around 30 minutes, allowing the dough to rest.
Trim just the roots from the spring onions, then finely slice the bulb and greens. You can either knead the onions into the dough now (my preference) or sprinkle them on in the next step, along with the oil.
Divide the ball of dough into 10 roughly similar sized pieces. On a lightly floured surface roll out each piece into a thin circle. Brush each circle with oil (and if you didn't add the onion into the dough, sprinkle each disk liberally now). Then starting at the bottom of each circle, tightly roll the dough up into a snake-like cylinder. Take each 'snake' and coil it up like a little snail, pinning the end. Roll out each coiled snail flat, again into a thin circular disk. This action of rolling and curling the oil and dough creates flaky scrumptious layers, akin to the act of laminating butter and pastry for a croissant.
Add oil to a cast iron or heavy-based skillet over moderately high heat, just enough to lightly coat the bottom. Place the first pancake in and cook for around a minute, then flip. You want a nice golden brown surface on each side, so lower the heat or cooking time accordingly if you note they're burning or not quite cooked. Set on a covered plate and repeat until all pancakes are finished. (Dare you not to 'sample' one while the remainder are cooking.)
These spring onion pancakes are great as is, or served with a tamari or chilli dipping sauce. We ate them with salad and leftover curry and they were juuust right.
-If you'd like to make extra or won't eat them all at once the dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Be sure to lightly oil the dough and seal in an airtight container.