When I first arrived in Taiwan for my two-month trip, I was afraid that I’d be reluctant to go back to my parent’s hometown, Yilan, to visit my grandparents since Taipei was so much fun (shopping, karaoking, eating, the exciting, cosmopolitan area, etc). However, once I arrived at my Grandma’s house, I suddenly remembered why I loved my Yilan home so much. Three words: Green. Onion. Pancakes. They are so delicious and my Grandma is an expert at making them. Ever since I was a little girl, visiting Taiwan in the summer and getting eaten alive by mosquitos, I always looked forward to eating my Grandma’s green onion pancakes in the morning. Even today, long after my Grandma has stopped dying her hair black or going on three-hour jogs in the morning, I can still hear her hard at work in the kitchen, rolling out dough and frying it. The smell of toasted sesame is such a delicious smell to wake up to!
So this time, as a passionate foodie, I figured that one of my main objectives is to write down my Grandma’s most famous recipes. After all, she’s 89 and has nearly a century of experience under her belt. She was eager to teach me and had me help her make green onion pancakes:
- Green Onion Pancakes
For the uninitiated, green onion pancakes are a Chinese dish (and very popular in Taiwan street stands) that’s basically a flat bread with scallions or green onions (and in my grandma’s version, dried shrimp) rolled inside and pan-fried with oil. The result is a delightful, savory pancake (or more like flatbread for Westerners) that’s crispy on the outside and has layers of chewy bread on the inside. It’s so good that even when I was a picky six-year old who ate only plain rice and dumpling skins, I absolutely loved green onion pancakes. My favorite thing about my grandma’s version, above the ones I get at restaurants is how there are salty little surprises in the dough, with crunchy dried shrimp and green onions exploding with that hidden fifth flavor, umami.
The ingredients for green onion pancakes are quite simple, so it’s all about the execution. My grandma doesn’t use a formal recipe, she just does it by heart, so I’ve tried my best to convert her measurements and tricks for you all to try at home:
Grandma’s Green Onion Pancakes
Yield: 4 pancakes
White flour (at least 4 rice bowls, or I guess that’s 4 cups–then extra for when you are kneading the dough)
Green onion, at least 1 1/2 cups, you can add more for sure, depends on your liking (Tip: to ensure that your pancake doesn’t get a broken and funky-looking surface, prepare the green onions by drying them out in the sun first, then refrigerate or freeze)
Dried shrimp, at least 1 1/2 cups
Sesame seeds, at least 1 1/2 cups
Add 2 spoonfuls of oil into a hot pan, then add 1 spoonful of salt and a small handful of flour. Stir. Then set aside.
Heat 1 and 1/2 cup of water over high heat, then stop the heat a little before the boiling point.
Add 1 spoonful of the oil to 4 cups/rice bowls of flour (1 bowl = pancake) in a large bowl. Slowly add the hot water to the mixture, stirring with your hands simultaneously until it forms flakes/clusters of dough. Knead the the clusters into one ball of dough. Transfer the ball of dough to a cutting board, then knead with both hands into a roll about a foot-long. Sprinkle the board with flour, then begin rolling the dough out into a flat, rectangular shape with a rolling pin.
Spread the oil/flour mixture from the pan across the dough (you don’t have to use all of it, just as necessary). Sprinkle the dough with dried shrimp and green onions (you don’t have to use all of your dried shrimp or green onions either, just as much as you want).
Roll up the dough from the bottom to the top, tightly like a yoga mat. Seal up the ends. Then section the roll into 4 by twisting them off and sealing of the ends (very important to seal off the ends of the small rolls, make sure none of ’em green onions are peeking out!) Slightly flatten the balls. Sprinkle and spread a little flour and water onto one side, then squish that side into a plate of sesame seeds. Roll out the balls (sesame side down) into flat circles, nearly one foot in diameter. (Tip: to get a really nice circle, turn the dough constantly as you roll).
Pan-fry the dough in low heat with lots of oil. Fry until golden brown, then cut into slices.