The chives in my garden aren’t quite in bloom yet, but they’ve become tall and lush and have been begging to be made into Chinese scallion-chive flatbreads. I felt it was only fair to oblige.
These breads are so delicious, I can’t begin to tell you. Sometimes you can get them in Chinese restaurants, but I’ve never had one to compare with homemade, fresh out of the pan. They are addictive: crunchy on the outside, soft, salty and fragrant on the inside.
The rolling-out method creates thin layers of salted, sesame oil-flavored dough with large pockets of fresh scallions and chives. They’re wonderful by themselves, dipped into chile sauce, or eaten alongside a soup or stirfry. We ate this particular batch with a spicy Thai-style stirfry of local bison meat, which was mindblowingly good.
I base my recipe for these on Barbara Tropp’s version in her beautiful and inspirational China Moon cookbook. She also includes a version in her first book, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, which calls for making two different doughs and combining them; seems like a lot of extra trouble to me. The China Moon dough is quite simple to put together. She does gussy hers up a bit with flavored oils, which you can certainly do as well (I recommend trying her chile-lemon oil), but plain sesame oil gives a nice warm flavor – it’s what I usually use.
Scallion Chive Breads
Makes 4 breads. Adapted from China Moon by Barbara Tropp.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup hot tap water
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil (or as needed)
- 2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped chives
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl or a mixer. Then, stirring briskly, add the hot water, then the cold water. Turn it out onto a board and knead briefly – it should be slightly soft and giving, but not gooey. Cover with plastic and let rest at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, finely chop your scallions, chives and cilantro (if using). Pour the oil into a little bowl and get a pastry brush ready, and put the salt in another little bowl – you want the fillings all ready to go as soon as you start rolling out the dough.
Divide the dough into four parts. Take the first piece (cover the others with plastic wrap) and roll it out into a seven inch disk. Brush it with the oil, then sprinkle evenly with salt. Pile one-fourth of the greens onto it (it will look like too much). Spread them evenly over the bread.
Now roll it up:
You want a fairly firm tube. Try not to let any greens escape.
Now roll this tube around itself into a spiral:
Tuck in the end and flatten the spiral with your hand (I sometimes use a dab of water to help the end attach). Now (carefully) roll the bread back out into a six-inch disk.
The greens will poke out here and there, but try not to tear the dough too much. You can use a little extra flour to keep it from sticking. Set the bread aside on a floured surface and shape the rest of the breads.
To pan fry them, heat a heavy skillet over a high flame. Add oil to a depth of 1/8 inch. When it’s hot, add a bread. You want it to sizzle but not burn. Let it cook 3-4 minutes, until golden brown, then flip it and cook another couple of minutes. Drain on paper towels and cut into wedges. Repeat until all the breads are cooked.
Eat while hot. Don’t count on leftovers.