Scallion Pancake Beef Rolls
What restaurant stops seating 45 minutes before closing? Well, if you're in Vancouver, the answer is just about all of them. After attending the usual equally awkward and fun conference party while in the Canadian city over the summer, my co-worker and I hightailed it to grab some soup dumplings at Dinesty Dumpling House, where I was also intrigued by a scallion pancake beef roll I had seen photos of. Arriving over thirty minutes before closing, we were informed seating was closed for the night, so we disappointingly made our way down Robson street, stopping at more restaurants of interest, only to be informed none would seat us, even though some of their closing times were above 45 minutes away. As we wondered what the hell was wrong with this city, we finally found a late night spot that could placate our hunger, but not in the way those Chinese goodies would have. I haven't forgotten that night, nor my desire for that beef roll, so decided I needed to make it for myself.
The problems of that evening are compounded if you consider that I've never tried one of these rolls, so am unsure of what they should taste like exactly. So this is not any type of traditional or copycat recipe, but more what I imagined it was going to taste like. I did do a little scouring of the internet and found that, while not necessarily a typical dish, there were enough of these rolls documented around the blogs to get an understanding that it was common practice for them to be made from stewed beef. Since I wanted to use the grill, I ignored that direction and decided to fill these with thinly sliced short rib, which I procured from my local Asian grocery.
I then concocted a savory marinade that would embed the already beefy short ribs with a ton of extra flavor. As you might expect, soy sauce served as a base, and I balanced out that saltiness with some dark brown sugar. To create a somewhat stereotypical Chinese profile, I added to that, garlic, ginger, Shaoxing wine, 5-spice powder, sesame oil, and white pepper.
I then married the beef and sauce together in a Ziploc bag and let it marinate in the fridge for a few hours. One great thing though about using thin beef and a strong marinade is that you really don't need more than an hour soak to fully saturate the meat, so not all that much planning ahead is required. Actually, by the time it takes to make the scallion pancakes, the beef will be more than ready.
Now I walked through in detail the scallion pancake-making process in a post last week, and by now I'm sure you're all experts at making them—right? If not, don't fret, just follow the step-by-step instructions already documented, and I swear what may look like a daunting task in the recipe won't be all that bad.
I did make two changes to the pancakes prepared for these rolls though. Both are related to wanting to get a thinner pancake that is both more pliable and would make for a larger end product. To accomplish that, I added much less scallions to the pancakes. This allowed the dough to be easier to roll out to a full eight-inch disk on the last roll, which also meant these pancakes were thinner than average.
On the grill, I cooked both the pancakes and beef over a very hot, fresh fire. For the pancakes, the high heat equated to an extra-crisp outside and great flaky layers on the inside—although you need to keep a watchful eye to prevent burning.
For the meat, this meant the beef cooked up to be beautifully brown and caramelized in minutes. Here, it's easy for the very thin slices to fall through to a fiery death, so it's best practice to lay them parallel to the grates to avoid such sad moments.
Once all the pancakes and beef were cooked, I assembled the rolls by first laying a portion of the short ribs along the center of the bread. I then topped with cucumber matchsticks, sliced scallions, and a line of hoisin before rolling closed.
I can't say for sure how this compares to similar rolls you may find in Chinese restaurants, but if they're any bit as good as these were, I don't think I could ever leave a place without ordering them. After about a year of making scallion pancakes at home, I pretty much knew that part of these was going to be stellar, and it was. The surprise was how good that rich and savory beef was and the way the scallions and cucumber added the right fresh contrast and the hoisin an appealing touch of complex sweetness. I served these with the dipping sauce I had made expressly for the scallion pancakes on their own, and while that added additional layers to the party, these rolls were already so full flavored that they stood on their own. So for anyone out there like myself, who have been denied these rolls in the past, I hope this recipe fills that empty hole in your heat, as they did mine.
Scallion Pancake Beef Rolls
- Yield 4 servings
- Prep 35 Minutes
- Inactive 30 Minutes
- Cook 6 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 11 Minutes
- For the Beef
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons 5-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 3/4 lb very thinly sliced short ribs or ribeye
- For the Scallion Pancakes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seed oil
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- To make the beef: In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, Shaoxing wine or sherry, ginger, 5-spice powder, sesame oil, and white pepper. Place beef in a large Ziploc bag, pour in marinade, and toss to distribute. Place bag in refrigerator and marinate for 1 to 4 hours.
- To make the scallion pancakes: Place flour in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. With the processor running, drizzle in water and process for 15 seconds. If dough does not come together, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a solid ball forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover dough with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Divide dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Working one ball at a time, roll out into a circle roughly 8-inches in diameter on a lightly floured surface. Paint a layer of sesame oil over surface of dough using a pastry brush, sprinkle with salt, then roll closed like a jelly roll. Starting at one end, twist the roll up into a spiral and tuck end of dough underneath. Re-roll dough into an 8-inch circle, brush again with sesame oil, and sprinkle lightly with sliced scallions. Repeat process of rolling closed like a jelly roll and twisting into a spiral. Roll dough out into a 8-inch disk. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place dough on grill and cook until crisp and lightly charred, about 1 minute. Flip dough over and continue to cook until second side slightly crisps and chars, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate and cover with kitchen towel.
- Transfer steak to grill and cook until browned and lightly charred all over, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board or plate.
- To assemble the rolls: Remove one pancake from plate and top with 1/4 of the beef, cucumber slices, scallions, and a hoisin sauce. Roll closed. Repeat with remaining pancakes. Serve immediately.
Scallion pancakes recipe adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
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