We grew up eating these green onion pancakes at our favorite Chinese restaurant–they’re light, crispy, chewy, and filled with flavor. A classic comfort Chinese appetizer or snack food that you can enjoy at home!
One of the most infuriating things about trying to learn cooking from Chinese relatives is that they will tell you all sorts of things, except how to cook whatever it is you’re trying to learn and cook. They will tell you about the fact that they were already married at your age. They will tell you about how your cousin played three instruments and mastered differential equations by the time they were nine. They will tell you about using “approximately this much flour” (holding up a rice bowl) or adding some nebulous measurement of water until your proportions are “just right.”
In short, they will tell you about every single thing under the holy shining sun…except a step-by-step guide about how to cook the goddamn recipe. Bless their hearts.
Growing up, I loved eating Chinese Green Onion Pancakes, otherwise known as 蔥油餅. We would order them as appetizers whenever we went to my favorite Chinese cafe, and my brother and I would fight for the last oily, crispy slice of scallion-filled dough. But I never thought I’d be able to make my own green onion pancakes, mainly because I’m a by-the-book kind of gal and I dreaded asking any of my improvising relatives (who are absolutely phenomenal in the kitchen, by the way) for a cooking lesson.
And then along came the Internet, and a tiny ray of hope crept into my windowless, pancake-less existence. I still remember the first time I Googled “Chinese green onion pancakes” back in 2012 and spending hours scouring recipes until I came across one from Rasa Malasia that reminded me exactly of the pancakes we used to eat back home. After an hour of following her recipe (measurements! instructions! exactness!), I ended up with a beautiful batch of these savory, crispy fried bites. The heavens opened. Choirs sang. A few ancient Chinese ancestors might have swooped by my kitchen and given me a high-five at my recipe success.
But here’s my favorite part of the story: in the eight years since I’ve started making these Chinese Green Onion Pancakes, I’ve completely stopped measuring my ingredients. I’ve even made some changes to the original recipe. It’s like the Chinese cooking gods opened up their beatific arms one day and suddenly decided that I should know exactly what my aunt meant when she said to add “the right amount of water” or knead until the dough is “just right.” For my older relatives, cooking isn’t simply a process to copy down and imitate; it’s a constantly evolving experience, a beautiful mosaic of the connections that we share as we pass recipes down from mouth to mouth, stomach to stomach, generation to generation.
So today’s recipe is my own take on green onion pancakes…and the best I’ve had to date, if I say so myself. It took me a few times to actually sit down, test ratios, and write everything down, but I think you’ll find this recipe well worth the effort. And hey–if you want to add in a little extra green onion or sesame oil or whatever your heart desires?
Go wild, I say. What’s cooking, after all, with a little extra pinch of fun on top?