Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Scallion cakes

We love these little cakes--crisp and doughy at the same time, and definitely not to be eaten often--they are delicious as a treat to go with an Asian meal. They are also great for an hors d'oeuvre--we simply make a larger batch, and smaller cakes.

Ingredients for cakes:
2 bunches scallions, chopped into small bits (about 1.5-2 cups total)
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
3/4 cup very hot water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil, for cooking (you may need more, depending on the thickness of your cakes)

For dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons soy
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3-4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons very finely chopped scallion
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger

large bowl for mixing
frying pan
plate lined with paper towels for after frying

Make the dipping sauce first, and set it aside so the flavors blend.

Toast the sesame seeds on a dry pan, over medium high heat. They will turn light brown very quickly, so keep your eye on the pan, and keep stirring them. They should be fragrant and toasted in less than 2 minutes. Set them aside in a bowl.

In a large bowl, mix together the scallions, flour, 1/2 of the sesame seeds, and salt. Add the hot water, and stir mixture with a fork. It will become very sticky. Add the soy sauce, and then the sesame oil. Using your hands, pull the bits together and knead it slightly to make a dough. It will become smoother as you work it with your hands. You may need to add flour to it, or even a bit of sesame oil. I sometimes put a bit of the oil on my hands as well. This helps with the next step, which is shaping the cakes. You should get 6-7 cakes from this batch, each measuring about 2" round before cooking. Make them and set them aside on a plate. Ours had a bit of flour still on them, as you can see here. The bits of scallion on the surface of the cake will be especially nice when sauteed.

Heat the oil in the pan, and once it is hot and shimmery-looking, add 2 or 3 cakes. Don't overcrowd the pan or they won't cook right.

Push each cake down with the spatula so they flatten a bit in the pan. This will get them as crispy as possible. For the single batch, each cake will become about 3 inches around finished size.

The first batch may take a bit longer, but plan on cooking each side between 2-5 minutes. For the first batch here, it took 5 minutes per side. By the second batch, the pan was hotter, and it took only 2 minutes per side to get them nicely browned.

Set them on the paper-towel-lined plate to drain quickly, then press them onto a plate lined with the remaining sesame seeds. Serve the cakes while they're hot, or, let them rest and serve them within a day's time. You can crisp them up in the oven if you want to make them ahead of time. Make sure you brush them with a tiny bit of sesame oil if you are serving them later.

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