Scallion Pancakes for the Dim Sum Party

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to spend preparing Chinese ‘little snacks’ to be steamed, fried,  baked and shared at Dim Sum parties among friends during the winter months. The little Chinese specialties are many the same I make throughout the year: dumplings, pot stickers, stuffed buns, and pork balls, shrimp toasts. Mostly, these little treats are barely out of the steamer or fry pan then into the dipping sauce and quickly gone before moving on to an extended meal with a noodle dish or soup. A Dim Sum Party involves serving a broad variety of these little snacks over the course of a party. The fall Dim Sum preparation involves time, preparing volumes of each separate dish. As each batch is completed they are carefully placed in long plastic containers lined with freezer paper, plastic wrap, then sealed and frozen. One of the more time consuming tasks is making the Scallion Pancakes. One day each fall I make a number of batches of scallion pancakes over the course of a day or two, to be enjoyed as one of the selections for Dim Sum parties or, fried and served as a nice little treat if friends drop by unexpectedly.

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Dim Sum by Cantonese definition translates to ‘little snacks’. In Mandarin, the term used is dian xin, loosely translated to ‘little eats’ but the literal translation is ‘light the heart’. Conceptually, the idea is for diners to enjoy themselves, find pleasure in the food. Dim Sum rather that dian xin is the most commonly used term due to the predominance of Cantonese restaurants that serve Dim Sum most widely in the West.

A Dim Sum Party at home is a great way for guests to gather and converse over wine, beer, or cocktails while enjoying the ongoing stream of these filling little snacks throughout an afternoon or evening. In the accurate sense little Chinese snacks can be served any time, Dim Sum are served during the day for brunch or lunch, and are eaten sitting down. Still, hosting a ‘Dim Sum Party’ where guests can mingle and move about while enjoying a variety of these dishes in the evening hours has a festive appeal. In the Western sense inviting guests for ‘little snacks’ hardly evokes the idea of individual flavorful delicacies, an awareness of the involved time and care in preparation, or, the concept of truly lighting the heart and finding pleasure in the food, the invitation of Dim Sum does.

Hosting a Dim Sum party for your friends is not really so difficult,  advance planning and preparation in the broad variety of dishes served is essential. Scallion Pancakes are well worth the time and provide a sense of accomplishment in the early days of fall preparing for long days of winter ahead. Scallion Pancakes as part of the Dim Sum can be fried early in the day on the day of a party, then cut into quarters and even microwaved a few seconds to warm before serving alongside the dipping sauce. Just as there are many choices to be served for the Dim Sum there are also many expressions the Chinese use conversationally to describe the experience in choosing the foods to be enjoyed during Dim Sum. One of my favorites is: dian cai sui xin, meaning: spot the dish, follow your heart. Enjoy the Scallion Pancakes, and may your Dim Sum celebration this winter warm you and your guests the heart of pleasure with your Chinese ‘little snacks’!

Scallion Pancakes
Yields 12
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For Pancake Topping
  1. 4-5 thin scallions, chopped very thinly and finely
  2. 3-4 Tablespoons sesame oil in a small dish to brush on the dough
  3. 2-3 Tablespoons kosher salt in a small dish to sprinkle onto the dough
For Cold Water Dough
  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 2/3 cup chilled ice water, possibly two teaspoons more or less, can depend on the weather, and your food processors ease to process the dough into a ball
For the Hot Water Dough
  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  3. 2/3 cup boiling water, and possibly two teaspoons more or less, can depend on the weather, and your food processors ease to process the dough into a ball.
For Cold Water Dough
  1. Mix flour and baking powder into food processor and turn on. In a thin stream begin pouring in the 2/3 cup chilled cold water into the mixture until it forms a ball. If a ball forms before finishing all of the 2/3 cup do not continue adding water, add a small amount more water if necessary to form a ball. Once a ball has formed, remove from processor and set aside.
For the Hot Water Dough
  1. Mix flour and salt into food processor and turn on. In a thin stream begin pouring in the 2/3 cup boiling water into mixture until it forms a ball. If a ball forms before finishing all of the 2/3 cup do not continue adding water, add a small amount more water if necessary to form a ball.Once a ball has formed, remove from processor and set aside.
Combining the Cold and Hot Water Doughs
  1. Combine the Hot and Cold Water Dough Balls back into the Food Processor and mix into one large ball. Once the doughs are combined, remove from Food Processor and knead the dough ball one to two minutes by hand. Cut the large dough ball into twelve pieces. Press each piece down. Roll each of the twelve pieces into a circle. The circle does not have to be perfect at this stage. Once the twelve pieces are rolled into circles, brush each with sesame oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and scatter scallions lightly across dough circle. Next, roll up the dough circle topped with the scallions into a cylinder shape. Beginning at one end roll the cylinder around into a circle resembling a cinnamon bun. Then, roll out the shape that resembles a cinnamon bun into a circle and there you have one scallion pancake ready to be fried in a hot pan or frozen for your future Dim Sum Party. Repeat process for each of the pancakes until completed. Cover with plastic, refrigerate. Fry in a pan with a small amount of oil or clarified butter. If you are freezing the scallion pancakes, once packaged in a container between freezer paper, the scallion pancakes can be fried frozen individually, or if serving for a Dim Sum Party, I defrost a tray of scallion pancakes in the refrigerator the day before using.
Dipping Sauce
  1. 1/4 cup soy sauce
  2. 2 Tablespoons water
  3. 3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  4. 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
  5. 1/2 -1 teaspoon fine chopped scallions
  6. 1/2 of a clove, crushed garlic
  7. 1 thin slice ginger, cut in half
  8. Mix all ingredients together and serve in individual size or small serving bowls.
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  1. Sunisa P.
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    My mother-in -law makes wonderful dim sum and the smell of her scallion pancakes always filled me with a feeling of jai yen (calm heart). Although I’m not Chinese, my husband’s family moved to Thailand before he was born and our families became close. Chinese and Thai cuisines were combined and a new form of dim sum was born. My favorite is a dumpling called Kanom Jeep. Do you know it, Peggy? Its made with pork, shrimp and cilantro and often served with a crab base dipping curry called Boo Paht Pong Karee.

    I have tried so many of your recipes my husband is falling in love with me again. 🙂


    • Peggy Gilbey McMackin
      Posted September 7, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sunny, great to hear from you. Thank you so much for your interesting and thoughtful comment. I am familiar with Kanon Jeeb, and it really is similar to the Chinese pork and shrimp dumplings with the added cilantro (coriander as commonly called in some places outside of the USA). Still I am not familiar with the accompanying sauce that you describe, Boo Paht Pong Karee. I have looked it up and this crab based curry dipping sauce looks amazing! I must and will definitely try it! You have inspired me to exploring possibilities of a future Post! Meanwhile, I will do my best to provide the best recipes I can and keep the love growing with you and your husband! Thanks again Sunny, and for being a part of the conversation.

  2. Shaista Ajaz
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I am so going to make these =) Thanks for the recipe Peggy!!

    • Peggy Gilbey McMackin
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment Shaista, hope you enjoy the scallion pancakes.

  3. Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Hello there! I just want to give you a huge thumbs up
    for your great information you’ve got right here on this post. I’ll be returning to your website for more soon.

    • Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Hello there Walter thanks for the thumbs up and joining in the conversation. Pleased you like the Scallion Pancakes served alongside the dipping sauce and look forward to hearing how your first batch turns out.

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