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Remains of Summer: Chinese Onion Pancake “Tacos”

Bacon 'n Egg (and mixed green) Taco Bacon 'n Egg (and mixed green) Taco
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As tree fruit reddens in the waning summer sunshine, it is time again to reflect on a season’s adventures in the world of tacos. Like last year, many meals in our household took the familiar form of meat and/or vegetables, wrapped in a “tortilla;” tortillas making wonderful edible plates.

According to the Random House dictionary, a taco is “often a crispy fried tortilla folded over and filled with seasoned chopped meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.” The Collins English Dictionary refers somewhat less to the American “hard” taco innovation, “Mexican cookery; a tortilla folded into a ‘roll’ with a filling and usually fried.” But, that definition seems to resemble more a “flauto” or “taquito.”

To further confound things, big box fast food concerns have taken the taco concept and made it their own, inventing the waffle and pancake “taco” breakfast sandwich; the halved doughnut “taco”; pizza “taco”; chocolate taco; and bacon weave taco. Oh my!

Now, I’m not saying the taco format is seasonal. In the dead of winter, fajitas, what I feel is tex-mex’s answer to the communal meal of oriental broth fondue (Chinese “hot pot” or Japanese “shabu shabu”), delights.

Earlier this summer, we took a page from the Mission Street Food (MSF) cook book (now a successful San Francisco restaurant called Mission Street Chinese) and made “tacos” with green onion pancakes. Pioneer of modern food truck/cart cuisine, we recommend anyone considering venturing into the world of street food read Danny Bowien’s book.

[...and this recent article by Lesley Chesterman of the Montreal Gazette about how difficult it is to make a living via food truck or cart].

Our homage to MSF:

Mission Street Food-inspired Tacos

Mission Street Food-inspired Tacos

To start, you’re going to need “tortillas.”

Green Onion “Tortilla” Pancakes

Separating Scallion Greens

Separating Scallion Greens

Chopping the Scallion Greens

Chopping the Scallion Greens

Shaggy Dough

Shaggy Dough

Dough Piece Rolled Out Nice and Thin

Dough Piece Rolled Out Nice and Thin

Oil, Scallions, and Salt

Oil, Scallions, and Salt

Roll 'er Up

Roll ‘er Up

Form a Snail

Form a Snail

Press

Press

Pan Up

Pan Up

Pan Fry

Pan Fry

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (or combination of all purpose and pastry flour)
  • 2 cups “masa harina” (instant corn tortilla) flour (popular brand available is Maseca)
  • 1 cup corn meal (yellow or white)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup skim milk (or water)
  • oil for brushing (sesame for flavour)
  • large bunch of scallion (green onion) or ramp greens (approximately 2 cups finely chopped)
  • kosher salt to season

Prep:

  1. Sift all of the dry ingredients (wheat flour, masa flour, and corn meal) together in a heat-proof bowl and make a well.
  2. Boil the water.
  3. When the water stops bubbling, pour it into the well.
  4. With a fork, conservatively form a shaggy dough out of the mixture.
  5. Add milk, as needed, to get everything to come together into an elastic mass. Sometimes you will require all of the milk. Others, not.
  6. Place the dough into a plastic bag and let it sit for an hour, at least. Resting the dough allows it to hydrate and any developed gluten to relax. Resting the dough overnight (8 hours) is best.
  7. Finely chop the scallion greens and set them aside.

Method:

  1. Take the dough and divide it into 6-8 pieces.
  2. Take one piece and place the rest back into the plastic bag.
  3. Oil a work surface.
  4. Roll out the dough on the surface with a rolling pin, approximately 1 mm thick.
  5. Lightly brush the rolled out dough with oil.
  6. Evenly sprinkle chopped scallions over the rolled out dough, leaving an inch from the edge.
  7. Lightly season with salt.
  8. Lift one edge of the dough and roll everything into a tight cylinder.
  9. Twist the cylinder and roll it into a snail (or snake) shape. [Knots work too...]
  10. Flatten the snail with the palm of your hand.
  11. Now either use a tortilla press to form the snail shapes into pancakes or cover with parchment paper and roll out again with a rolling pin.
  12. Fry the pancakes in a little hot oil in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or non-stick pan, approximately 2 minutes on each side.
  13. Repeat with remaining dough.
  14. Store the pancakes, separated by paper towels, in an oven set to 200F.

Then, you’ll need toppings.

Five-spice lardons, poached eggs, peppery greens

Five-spice lardons, poached eggs, peppery greens

Avocado, roast pork, sage and dill sour cream, onion granola, red chile

Avocado, roast pork, sage and dill sour cream, onion granola, red chile

Five-spice pork belly, peppery greens, sage and dill sour cream, onion granola, red chile

Five-spice pork belly, peppery greens, sage and dill sour cream, onion granola, red chile

Alternatively, you could plate a take on the chicken Caesar salad…

Roast chicken, peppery greens, sage and dill sour cream, grana padano

Roast chicken, peppery greens, sage and dill sour cream, grana padano

Whatever the case, consider the chewy onion pancake in your next foray into tacos. We know restaurants in Toronto that even make sandwich wraps with them.

Aside:
Regarding the onion “granola,” if you’ve a friend like Valley Wild Edibles‘ Scott Perrie, who will barter bottles of the “good stuff” for foraged goods, you may come into possession of ramps in the spring time. Me, I wasn’t about to hide ramp bulbs in green onion pancakes, so tried something different.

Green Onion and Ramp Whites

Green Onion and Ramp Whites

Onion Granola

Onion Granola

I chopped and sweated ramp and scallion whites until golden with a little salt on medium heat. Then, I spread the mixture onto a parchment covered sheet pan and dried it out in a 350 F oven until flaky. Voila! Onion “granola”

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.

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