Hunan Spring Onion Pancakes

You can cut each pancake into 4 wedges

What you need to know:

Recipe. The secret to making great spring onion pancakes is to make sure that you fry the spring onions before adding them to the dough.

Regardless of what your source of heat be it a hot rock or an electric frying pan or an ordinary one over a gas flame; no matter how fancy the name viz. blintzes, crepes or Nockerin all these confections are easily mixed and made from simple batters.

Always remember that there are three equally important things that need to be in control in producing pancakes and waffles, the surface of your griddle or pan as well as the evenness of its heat.  Mix the liquid ingredients quickly into the dry ingredients and above all make sure that you do not overheat. A valuable hint is to give just enough quick strokes to barely moisten the dry ingredients.

Ignore the lumps and surprisingly superior results are gained if most pancake doughs are mixed and then allowed to rest, covered, refrigerated for 3 to 6 hours or longer prior to cooking. Important to note is that the resting period does not apply to recipes which include separately beaten egg whites or to yeast raised cakes that have the word ‘raised’ in the title. Variation in moisture content of flour makes it wise to test the batter if too thick by diluting with a little water and if too thin by adding a little flour. If your griddle is a modern one or is of soap stone, you may not need to use any type of fat. Nor should you need to grease any seasoned pan surface if you have at least two tablespoons of butter for every cup of liquid in your recipe.  If you are using a frying pan or crepe pan, you may grease it lightly and continue to do so between batches.

Before cooking, test the griddle by letting a few drops of cold water fall on it. If the water bounces and sputters, the griddle is ready to use. If the water just sits and boils, the griddle is not hot enough. If the water vanishes, the griddle is too hot.

The Hunan spring onion pancake is frequently thought of as a bread and truth be told, it is in fact a cousin of the famous and much loved Indian naan, thin, browned and crisp yet textured in the center. It is eaten as a snack or part of the main course in a large meal and is a Hunan tradition. For that matter, some insist that no one but a chef from Hunan should even attempt to cook these pancakes. Notwithstanding this, the onion pancake, in various forms, is known and enjoyed throughout China. Most spring onion pancakes are made from a basic dough with fresh spring onions being most essential though some are made from a batter. Some are thin and flat, while others are thick. None is baked; rather they are all fried. The secret to making great spring onion pancakes is to make sure that you fry the spring onions before adding them to the dough and to use lard which is the traditional choice of preference.


Serves 4 – 6

  • ½ cup melted lard
  • 1 ½ cup Supreme baking flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup warm water
  • Vegetable oil for work surface
  • 10 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more if needed


1. Heat a wok over medium heat for 20 seconds before adding the lard and then immediately add the spring onions. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes making sure that you continuously stir to avoid burning. Turn off the heat and pour the contents of the work into a small bowl and allow to cook for 10 minutes.

2. Mix together the flour and salt and make a well in the center. Gradually add the warm water to the well (which should be warm to the touch) and use your fingers to combine it with the flour until it is absorbed. Add the lard and spring onions and continue to mix with your fingers until the lard is absorbed and the spring onions are evenly distributed.

3. Using a dough scrapper lift the dough from the surface with one hand and begin kneading it with the other hand and knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 30 minutes or so.

4. Lightly rub a work surface with vegetable oil. Transfer the dough to the oiled surface and roll out to six inches long. Fold the long sides toward the center, overlapping them slightly. Roll out again in a 6- inch length and then and then fold as before. Repeat this one more time and then shape the dough into a log 4- inches long and cut crosswise into 4 equal parts. Place the pieces in a warm place away from a draft and cover with a plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for a good 30 minutes or until the pieces are very soft.

5. Work with one piece at a time and keep the others covered with the damp cloth. Again, rub the work surface with vegetable oil and transfer the dough to the oiled surface. Roll out into a circle about 8 inches in diameter and cover with a piece of waxed paper and then repeat with the remaining 3 pieces.

6. Heat a wok over high heat for 30 seconds before adding the spring onions. When a wisp of white smoke appears turn off the heat and gently place the pancake into the pan and shallow fry for about 20 seconds. Then turn the heat to medium and shallow fry the pancake for another minute or so until it turns brown. Remove the pancake to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining 3 pancakes. The oil should always be ¼ inch deep so added more if needed.

7. You can cut each pancake into 4 wedges as it is removed from the pan and serve at once. Or you can cook all the 4 pancakes, stacking them separated by paper towels and then cut them all at the same time.

NB: Variation

If you don’t have the time to make cakes that look like tortillas, just buy Mexican flour tortillas, spread them with sesame oil, egg, and spring onions and proceed as above.