Scallion pancakes/flatbread recipe (cong you bing) – a Chinese paratha

Breads don’t always come out of the oven. This simple flatbread/pancake is very popular in China, both as breakfast, an accompaniment and as a snack, and is cooked in a frying pan. Now that the weather is colder, it’s even better straight out of the pan. Many claim that it’s the predecessor of the pizza, and I suppose, looking at how pizza doughs are made, there are similarities. The ingredients are simple: you just need some flour, salt, oil and spring onions (sesame seeds, sesame oil and five spice powder are optional but highly recommended).

The recipe is a lot looser than the others here, because there’s no set amount of oil to use, for example. In order to make it easier to follow, I’ve included more photos than usual.

The pancakes take around 40 minutes to make, but this includes 20 minutes of waiting for the dough to settle. The following recipe makes 2 pancakes.


1 cup of plain white flour (around 150g)
1/2 teaspoon of five spice powder
8-10 baby spring onions
3-4 drops of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

You’ll need water, more flour for dusting, and salt and olive oil at each folding stage.

Step 1: place the flour in a large bowl and mix the five spice powder into the flour.


Step 2: heat 3/4 cup of water. You want it very hot, but not boiling – adding 1/4 cup cold water to 1/2 cup boiling water also works. Add this to the flour and stir. Once it’s more or less mixed in, start kneading the dough.

Step 3: knead for around 5-10 minutes, and add tiny amounts of water or flour if the dough needs it. The dough should be as “wet” as possible without sticking to your hands. Wrap in cellophane and rest the dough for 20 minutes.


Step 4: in the meantime, chop the spring onions in to small chunks.


Step 5: now we’re ready to fold! Split the dough into two, dust your counter with flour to prevent the pancake sticking, and repeat steps 6 to 10 for the two dough halves…


Step 6: Roll the dough half into a thin pancake (around 3mm thick).

Step 7: add, in order, the following to the surface of the pancake: salt (dust the pancake and use your hands to spread it across the pancake), olive oil (pour this onto the pancake and either spread it with your hand or fold a section of the pancake and smear it across) and finally, half of the spring onions.

Step 8: roll the pancake, then roll the roll as per images below. You may need a bit of water to seal the end of the roll and make it keep the shape. Rest for a few minutes.

Step 9: press and flatten the roll, then dust with flour on top and flatten it back into a pancake with a rolling pin. It should end up around 3mm thick again.


Step 10: spread a few drops of sesame oil onto the surface of the pancake, and spread half the sesame on top. Now make the other pancake.


Step 11: heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan. Keep on high heat throughout. Once sizzling, drop in one of the pancakes. Check after a few minutes, as it will need to fry until brown. Flip once one side is cooked, add more olive oil and fry the other side.


Step 12: remove from pan and dab with oil absorbing paper to remove excess oil. Repeat the above for the second pancake. Cut into pieces (easiest with a pizza cutter), and it’s ready to serve!


It’s also possible to use self raising flour if you already have some left over. The baking powder won’t have much, if any, effect in this cooking process.

If you’ve tried this recipe, how did you get on?


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