Beautifully seasoned, crispy on the surface and fluffy inside, this leavened scallion flatbread only takes 10 mins to cook in a pan.
“Mum’s best” flatbread
Traditionally, in the North-west of China where I was born, wheat-flour based food is a dominant staple. My parents used to buy big bags of flour (25 kg each package) and make all types of noodles, buns and bread from scratch. One of my favourite staples back then was “mum’s best” flatbread (Lao Bing, 烙饼). Based on what I learnt from my mum, I created a recipe with a few twists of my own. Now my pan-fried scallion flatbread (葱油发面饼) made from leavened dough has become my own children’s “mum’s best”.
Leave adequate time for the dough to rise
Chinese kitchens are not usually equipped with ovens. Home cooks make bread either by steaming or by cooking in a pan/wok. There are two types of Chinese pan-cooked flatbread: unleavened ones such as Spiced beef flatbread and Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake); leavened ones like the scallion flatbread I’m sharing today.
Same as preparing other leavened bread, the key is to leave adequate time for the dough to rise properly. The rising process takes place in two stages: one after you form the dough; the other after you shape the bread. The well-developed dough will result in a fluffy and soft texture inside the finished bread.
How to speed up the fermentation process
It takes about 40 minutes to 1.5 hours to double the dough in size during the first rising stage (depending on the room temperature). Recently I learnt from food blogger Nagi (Recipetin Eats) an unusual but very effective way to speed up the process: run an empty tumble dryer for 2 minutes, then place the bowl (dough in, covered with wet kitchen towel) inside the drum. I tested this method the other day: 40 minutes, job done!
Make your flatbread tasty & crispy
The flatbread my mum used to make was cooked in a pan without any oil. It wasn’t seasoned with any flavour neither. I like its natural taste which has a slight hint of sweetness. Inspired by a classic street food called Cong You Bing (葱油饼, known as Scallion Pancake which is made from unleavened dough), I added a few elements to my mum’s recipe.
- Season the flatbread with spring onion, ground Sichuan pepper (or Chinese five-spice powder) and salt. Be generous with the spring onion. It’s the soul of the flavour.
- Roll, fold and coil the dough in a particular way. This gives the finished bread a layered look.
- Top the flatbread with sesame seeds for its nutty aroma.
- Then fry it with a little oil to create a tasty, crispy crust.
I often serve this pan-fried scallion flatbread for dinner, along with soup (or Chinese congee) and other savoury dishes. It tastes best when freshly cooked. I also like it cold as a snack.
Scallion flatbread, leavened (葱油发面饼)
For the dough
- 500 g plain flour , 4 cups (see note 1 & 2)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp dried instant yeast, see note 3
- 260 ml lukewarm water, 1 cup + 2 tbsp
For the bread
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper, or Chinese five-spice powder
- 1/8 tsp salt, or to taste
- 2 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
Make the dough
- In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast and sugar. Pour in water little by little while stirring with a pair of chopsticks (or a fork). Knead with your hand until a smooth, elastic dough forms (see note 4)
The first rise
- Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until double in size. It will take about 40 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the room temperature.
Shape the bread
- Take the dough out. Knead on a floured work surface until the dough goes back to its original size.
- With a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a rectangle shape (roll it as thin as you can. Dust with flour to avoid sticking).
- Brush oil on the dough. Sprinkle ground Sichuan pepper, salt and scallions on top.
- Roll the dough into a rope. Coil it to form a flat circle. Then roll the circle out into a 26-cm (10-inch) disk.
- Wet the disk with a little water. Sprinkle with sesame seeds then press them down gently.
The second rise
- Cover the bread loosely with cling film. Leave to rise for around 20 minutes.
Fry the bread
- Heat up oil in a deep frying pan (28cm / 11 inches) over a medium-low heat.
- Place the bread in (the side with sesame seeds facing down) then cover with a lid.
- Cook until the first side is golden brown. Flip over and cook with the lid on until the second side is done (see note 5).
- Turn the bread over again to crisp the first side for a few seconds.
- Transfer the bread onto a chopping board. Leave to cool for a short while then cut into pieces. Serve warm.
Have a great time in your kitchen!