Flaky shallot pancake (蔥油餅)

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I was chatting with Li, another school mum about a forthcoming international food festival at school.  I mentioned that I’d make some shallot cake, a traditional snack from Northern China.  There were twinkles in Li’s eyes. “For one of my birthdays,” Li said, “my mother made three pieces of those really tasty flaky shallot pancakes. I asked why there were only three pieces.  To make these pancakes for my birthday, mum used up every drop of cooking oil in the house. Those days, cooking oil was rationed in China.”

Yes, I remember ‘those days’.

An 250 gram cooking oil coupon
A 250 gram cooking oil coupon

That afternoon, I made my family a batch of shallot pancakes – flaky, oily, chewy and incredibly comforting!

Flaky shallot pancake

Recipe is as follows:

1. To make the dough:

  • 2 cup of plain flour  (more for dusting later)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 1 tbs fine sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

I use a bread maker to prepare the dough which will take approximately 8 minutes.  If you hand-knead the dough, it would take approximately 10 minutes. Leave the dough aside to rest for 20 minutes (covered with cling wrap).

2. To prepare the shallot oil:

  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 30g shallot, finely chopped
  • a dash of sesame oil
  • a few pinches of salt

In a frying pan, bring the cooking oil to medium heat; add shallot; lightly stir fry for 20 seconds; turn off the heat; add salt and sesame oil; transfer the shallot and oil to a bowl to cool. This process will soften the shallot and enhance its flavor.

3. To prepare the pancakes

  • roll out the dough to a square sheet of approximately 0.2cm thickness
  • spread the shallot oil evenly on the sheet
  • roll up the sheet, alongside the length, to a sausage
  • cut the sausage into round cylinders, approximately 1 inch height
  • stand the cylinders up, use the palm of the hand, flatten the cylinders into discs
  • roll out the round discs to a round pancake, approximately 0.2cm thickness
Shallot pancake
Shallot dough ‘sausage’

4. To cook the pancake

In a frying pan, bring 3 tbsp cooking oil to medium heat; add one or two pancakes, cook on each side until golden brown, approximately 2 minutes on each side; repeat with the rest of the pancakes.

Serve while warm.

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