Cong You Bing? Traditional Chinese pancakes you can use as tacos

Be unapologetically inauthentic and serve these scallion pancakes in a Mexican dish

Traditional Chinese Scallion Pancakes, or Cong You Bing, are deliciously light, multi-layered flaky little rounds of dough scattered with finely chopped spring onion. I’ve made them a few times and always served them with the traditional dipping sauce of rice wine vinegar mixed with soy sauce and some chilli. Although these little flatbreads are so tasty on their own with some salty soy sauce.

I use spring onions to make these pancakes, use all of the green part unless it’s tough. Chives work really well too and give a more subtle onion taste. When using garlic chives the pancakes are called Jiucai You Bing. I’ve used wild garlic, finely shredded in the past and it works wonderfully.

I was at Litfest in Ballymaloe at the end of May and went to a talk by Karen Leibowitz. She is one of the founders of a restaurant in California called The Perennial and Mission Chinese, among many other things. She spoke of one of her previous ventures, a Guatemalan Taco Truck with multiple influences. Their cooking style was "unapologetically unauthentic" and I loved the sound of it. One example of this was the way they used scallion pancakes as tacos, filling them with all sorts of delicious things like Peking duck or pork belly.

After the food truck she, and her husband Anthony Myint, founded Mission Chinese Food. It was awarded Restaurant of The Year in 2012 by the New York Times. Again the menu is all about pushing the limits of what people expected from Asian Food. It's Asian food through an American lens with dishes like Kung Pao Pastrami and Salt and Pepper Lamb ribs with kefir crème fraiche, sumac and flat breads. The menu makes so much sense once you work through the flavours and forget everything you've come to know about Asian food. Listening to Karen's inspirational story made me think more adventurously about what I'm cooking and the ingredients I'm using. These do make a gorgeous snack or starter but scallion pancakes make amazing tacos too, filled with chilli beef, sour cream, avocado and salsa. The dough is incredibly easy to make. The only daunting part is the rolling and coiling of the dough but the more you do it the easier it will become.


Scallion Pancakes

Makes 8

  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 160ml boiling water
  • Olive oil
  • 150g spring onions, finely sliced

Mix the flour, sesame oil, salt and boiling water in a large bowl till it forms a craggy dough. It will be very hot at first so use a wooden spoon. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead till smooth and elastic. Leave on the counter to rest for an hour, covered by the upturned bowl. Divide the dough into 8 equal sized balls.

Roll each dough ball as thinly as possible on a floured surface. Each ball should make a 10 inch circle. Brush the rolled out dough with 2 tsp olive oil then season with a little salt and 2 tbsp of finely chopped spring onion. Roll the dough away from you, like a Swiss roll. Then coil that rolled log into a snail shape, tucking the end in neatly under the coil. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes and repeat with the remaining dough.

On a floured surface gently roil each coil of dough to a 5 inch round pancake. Repeat with the remaining coils. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Fry each pancake gently till crisp and golden on both sides. Keep the pancakes warm and use as tacos or slice and serve with dipping sauce.