A green onion pancake is a traditional Chinese dish made by forming hard dough and rolling it out in such a way that it creates a series of layers with oil or butter and green onions spread in between. Unlike a more traditional pancake that would be made from a very loose, liquid batter, a green onion pancake is made from dough that more closely resembles the type that would be used to make unleavened breads such as Indian paratha. Once the green onion pancake is rolled out into a flat disc, it is fried in butter or oil until it has cooked through and become crisp on the outside. Although the pancakes can be eaten without any accompaniments, as they might be if served as a street food, they also can be served with a spicy dipping sauce or some soy sauce.
The dough for a green onion pancake is made of only water and flour. The water that is used, however, should be very warm. One variation of the recipe involves first adding water that is just boiling, and then tempering it with cold water after a bit of kneading. In either case, the warm or hot water will help to relax the glutens in the flour. Once the water has been incorporated, the dough is kneaded until it becomes smooth and slightly springy, after which it can be allowed to rest.
Green onion pancake dough is cut into several pieces, and each will become a single pancake. First, the pieces of dough are formed into balls and rolled out into a flat, thin sheet. The surface of the sheet is brushed with oil, butter or any other type of fat that is being used. Diced green onions are spread over the fat and the entire pancake is rolled up loosely to form a long cylinder.
The cylinder of dough for the green onion pancake is then twisted until it wraps around itself, forming a small spiral disk of dough. The disk is turned on its side and flattened, pressed down with a rolling pin and worked until it is a flat pancake of the desired thickness. Thicker pancakes will cook more slowly and might remain somewhat chewy on the inside while a thin green onion pancake will tend to crisp up and become crunchy on the outside. The result of rolling the dough in this way is that the finished pancake will have several layers inside that, when the fat begins to cook and steam, will make it lighter than if the dough was cooked as a solid piece.
After the pancakes have been cooked in oil or butter until done, they can be served flat on a plate like a traditional pancake, or they can be folded and eaten like a snack. A dipping sauce such as soy sauce or a hot chili sauce can be presented with the pancakes. Bean paste, sesame oil and sour cream also make appropriate condiments for the pancakes.