Cong you bing (in Chinese, 葱油饼), literally “scallion pancake” is a delicious Chinese fried bread.
What is bing?
Bing (Chinese: 餅), also called bu bing (Chinese: 薄餅), is a kind of unleavened bread made with wheat flour, that is traditional of Chinese cuisine.
Bing can be shallow fried in a pan or it can be grilled. It can also be baked, although this version is not as common.
Bing is close to pancake, or any other crepe obtained by baking dough prepared with unleavened wheat flour, in Chinese and western cuisines. It is similar to Indian roti, French crêpe or Mexican tortilla.
What are the different versions of Chinese bing?
Bing can be stuffed or flavored. For example, here are some variants, that are widely consumed in China.
– Fā miàn bing is bing to which yeast is incorporated.
– Laobing is the plain version.
– Chun bing is what is called the spring crepe in China. It is traditionally prepared to celebrate the beginning of spring.
– Chaobing is the version that is baked in the oven.
– Jian bing is the version with eggs most similar to French crêpe. It is a very popular breakfast recipe in China.
– Bó bǐng, literally “thin crepe”, is a thin round wrap with various toppings. In the United States, it is sometimes called “Mandarin pancake” or “moo shu pancake”.
– Cong you bing, today’s recipe, which is the most common version.
What is cong you bing (scallion pancake)?
Cong you bing is a stuffed version with scallions, also known as spring onions or green onions. It is an extremely popular Chinese recipe that can be served as a side or simple a snack accompanying a bowl of soup. It can also be served for breakfast.
What is the origin of the Chinese scallion pancake?
Tracing the origins of this recipe seems complicated as there are countless legends and folktales about it.
It would seem that the birth of cong you bing goes back so far in time that even Chinese historians do not agree on its exact origin.
The most accepted theory would be that the birth of this crepe is linked to the large Indian community in Shanghai because of its close resemblance to paratha, a typical flat bread native to the north of India.
The most popular legend tells that when he came back from China, Marco Polo was missing cong you bing and he would have asked several Italian cooks to try to prepare it. Several variations were born, and most Chinese think that this thin pancake would be the ancestor of pizza as we know it today.
This legend says that a Neapolitan chef, who was cooking under the orders of Marco Polo, failed for a long time until Marco Polo had the idea not to stuff the crepe but rather to place all the ingredients on top of it. Later, the chef had the idea to add cheese and came up with pizza.
Flat breads similar to scallion pancakes around the world
There are a number of similar flatbreads from other cultures, exist:
– In Vietnam, you will find bánh xeo
– In Japan, negiyaki and okonomiyaki
– In Korea, pajeon
– In India, paratha
– In Saudi Arabia, marase’e
We had a great time with all these recipes that Mike and I prepared for our family and friends for a lavish Chinese feast: longevity noodles, steamed fish, kung pao chicken, spring rolls, jiaozi, and I think everyone really loved cong you bing, especially Mony, Mike’s dad, who even claimed that it was by far the recipe that he preferred!
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cup boiling water
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz. scallions
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Vegetable oil
Thinly slice the scallions. Mix with sesame oil and ½ teaspoon of salt and refrigerate.
Mix the flour and ½ teaspoon of salt. Pour the boiling water all at once and mix vigorously.
Then add the cold water gradually and knead until you obtain a soft, smooth and homogeneous dough. Let stand for 45 minutes.
Divide the dough into 10 pieces. Thinly roll each piece of dough to a thickness of about ⅛ inch.
Brush each piece of dough with oil. Sprinkle generously with fresh onions.
Roll each piece of dough to form a long stick, and roll each stick to form a snail shape. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Roll each snail to form ¼ inch thick circles.
Heat a lightly oiled pan over medium heat and cook each crepe 3 to 4 minutes on each side.