Monday, April 26, 2010

#CAFB Food Blogger Project Day 3: Cong You Bing (Scallion Pancake)

So a quick announcement: we just got word that the Austin American Statesman is coming over to our house tomorrow to film a piece on the food blogger project. I think they're going to interview us and maybe film some shots of us cooking. Ack! Gotta clean...

Anyways, today's dish is somewhat of a dim sum classic, known in Chinese as cong you bing, and known in English by many names -- green onion pie, scallion pancake, etc. -- mainly because it's hard to really describe what's going on here that actually sounds appealing.

In essence, it's fried dough, with onions and salt, and when made correctly, is darn delicious. The recipe below, though, is a somewhat modified version, slightly different than what you will get at Chinese restaurants. This is actually something College Justin used to make all the time, particularly because it was tasty and inexpensive. The ingredients are simple:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • water
  • salt
  • oil
You will also need some kind of flat surface, like a cutting board or a clean countertop. Also this is incredibly messy so be sure to wash your hands often and remove any jewelry.

Start out by pouring the flour into a big bowl. Pour about 1/4 cup of water in the bowl and start mixing. A flour dough will start to form. Form as much clay into a ball as you can, about the size of a ping pong ball.

Flatten the dough on the surface and mix in a little bit of the egg. This is when it starts to get really messy. Once the egg is mixed in, add flour to the dough until it is dry. Add water and flour to the ball until it is about the size of a squash ball (that may or may not help - roughly 1.5" in diameter).

Flatten the dough again and mix in about a tablespoon of the green onion until it is completely meshed into the dough. Dust with some flour on both sides and repeat the entire process creating pancakes until the flour and green onions run out.

Next heat up some oil in a frying pan, and fry the pancakes for about 1-2 minutes on each side until fully cooked. Once each pancake is finished place on a paper towel to dry. Sprinkle some salt to taste and enjoy.

Now as I said this is something I used to make all the time. In fact this is probably the first time since college that I've made it, in a time when both money and nutrition value had little meaning to me. This time around I made about 10 pancakes, and Han and I literally just ate that for lunch and nothing else.

The other day I talked about how hard it is to eat healthily on a budget because the cost of fresh produce is so cost ineffective. Along the same line, it's very cheap to make food that still tastes pretty good, despite having little to no nutritional value.

Back in humanity's hunter/gatherer days, salt and fat were pretty rare and our bodies needed to get them whenever it was possible. As such, to this day, our bodies are pre-programmed to crave these things, even though they are both widely available and very inexpensive.

As delicious as it is, cong you bing is pretty much nothing but salt and fat (and carbs). It's generally served as a side dish, but after today, I can definitely see how someone might choose to eat this and nothing else for an entire meal or maybe even an entire day.

I think this might be part of the reason why it seems almost all cultures have some sort of fried dough dish -- doughnuts, churros, Indian fry bread, etc. People in every country have hunger issues, and it makes sense that they may try to feed themselves in the most inexpensive yet satisfying ways possible for them.


Rachel said...

Hi! I could't find any contact info on the blog, so I'm leaving this in the comments section. My name is Rachel; I'm a journalism student here at UT. I write for the special editions of the Texan--Our Campus--and I'm working on a story about Austin food bloggers. I would love the chance to interview you! My deadline is May 6, so if you're up for an interview, let me know ASAP! I can be reached at or (956) 534-7562. I'm looking forward to hearing back from you guys!

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