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  • Sarah Rainey

Spring onion pancakes

There is, apparently, a story in China that pizza-lovers the world over have the humble spring onion pancake to thank for their favourite takeaway food.

Marco Polo, the 13th century Italian explorer, was said to miss the pancakes so much on his return to Italy that he persuaded a chef in Naples to recreate them - only he put the filling on top of the pancake, rather than inside. Party guests loved this new creation, and chefs soon began experimenting by adding cheese and tomato to the dough.

True or not, it's testament to how long these little beauties - called 'cong you bing' in China - have been around. Made from unleavened, folded flatbread and filled with minced spring onions, they're a tasty side dish or street food snack throughout Asia.

Authentic recipes are incredibly complicated, involving much folding and proving, but this version is as straightforward as you can get - and still tastes great.

Makes 6 pancakes


200g plain flour

400ml warm water

Half a bunch of spring onions, approx 80g


Sieve the flour into a large bowl and whisk in the water, using a large balloon whisk, until it's fully combined into a smooth, lump-free batter. Don't worry if it looks very thin at this stage - it will thicken as it cooks.

Wash the onions, cut off the white ends and the very tips, and chop them very finely with a sharp knife (you can see my chopping skills below...)

Add the chopped onions to the batter and whisk to combine.

Set the batter aside for 5 minutes (better still, stick it in the fridge) while you heat a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil in a small frying pan over a high heat. You can use whatever oil you have in the cupboard - but sesame oil has a lovely toasty sweet flavour.

Swirl the oil around so it coats the sides of the pan too and let it start to smoke.

Use a soup ladle to transfer a large spoonful of batter to the pan and let it bubble away for around 4-5 minutes on one side before flipping over. Repeat on the other side. You'll know it's done when it's just turning brown and crispy and the batter is cooked through.

Remove the pancake from the pan and put it on a plate lined with kitchen paper, to soak up any excess oil. Don't worry if Pancake No 1 doesn't look the neatest - it's always the worst of the lot.

Continue for the remainder of the batter. You might need to add a little extra oil if the pan is getting too dry, but you don't want the pancakes to get greasy.

Serve the pancakes hot, cut into quarters, with a little pot of soy sauce for dipping.

They'll keep for up to a week in the fridge.

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