Flaky Fried Scallion Flatbreads
"All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China"
"Fried scallion flatbreads have become a staple at many Chinese restaurants on the American side of the Pacific. But the problem is that few places make their own breads anymore, relying instead on commercially made products that are frozen and then cooked whenever an order comes in. I find this strange, because fried scallion flatbreads (their Chinese name, congyoubing, literally means 'green onion and oil flatbreads') are so easy to make and so delicious. Flaky flatbreads—what the Chinese call 'grabbed flatbreads' (zhuabing)—are crispier and in some ways more enticing. They are also a bit more difficult to make, but not by much. Instead of being cut into wedges like the fried scallion flatbreads, these are served whole as fluffed-up mounds, a whorl of crispy strands on the outside encircling a moist, tender center, very much like an Indian paratha."—Carolyn Phillips
4-6 servings (six 8-inch breads)
For the Dough:
- 2 1/2 cups Chinese flour* (2 parts unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 part unbleached pastry flour), plus more as needed
- 1 cup boiling water
- Peanut or vegetable oil, as needed
Paste and Seasonings:
- 1/2 cup Chinese flour* (2 parts unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 part unbleached pastry flour)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground toasted Sichuan peppercorns, optional
- 1/4 cup melted lard or white shortening
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 4 green onions, trimmed and very finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
- Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
To make the dough, place the flour in a medium work bowl. Use chopsticks to stir in the boiling water until large flakes have formed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it gently, adding a little extra flour as needed, until the dough is as soft as an earlobe. Rinse out the bowl, wipe it dry, and pour in a little oil. Toss the ball of dough around in the oil and then cover the bowl with either plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, make a thin paste by mixing together in a small bowl the flour, salt, optional Sichuan peppercorns, lard (or shortening), and oil. Set the green onions next to the paste.
For directions on shaping, frying, and serving both types of flatbread, see this diagram.
*Recipe note: The main difference between the breads and pasta of China and the United States lies in their white flours. Here in the States, we use flour with a high amount of gluten, and this in turn makes our breads and pastas chewier. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, of course, but it does cause considerable confusion when you try to make recipes that originate in other countries. If you have access to Asian markets, you can use Korean flour, which tends to be of excellent quality. If not, make this blend.
Reprinted with permission from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Illustration credit: Carolyn Phillips © 2016