Pizza Lab #41: Scallion Pancake Pizza
Ever been to a dumpling house? Or a noodle house? Or any of those delicious little restaurants serving small treats from Chinese and other Asian cuisines in an informal setting? Meg and I frequently hit up Red Tiger Dumpling House, up in Stony Brook, NY and we recommend the shit out of it if you’re in the area. Aside from the awesome wontons and buns and different dumpings you can get, one of the neater finger foods you can get are scallion pancakes. Considering they look like tiny, little pizza doughs, this seemed like a no-brainer for a Pizza Lab.
Now before you get all iffy and leery, let’s clear this up: scallion pancakes are nothing like the typical flapjack we have in the U.S. Instead, they’re made by folding a dough over and over again with spices and chopped scallions (green onions) so that you end up with an almost croissant-like texture. Considering they’re closer to bread and pastries than cake, it makes sense since you see a lot of breads in other cuisine that call for onions added directly into the dough. Real scallion pancakes are only about the size of a small saucer, but we went full-scale with our scallion pancake pizza, folding the scallions straight into the dough.
The one problem we ran into while designing this pizza was what to actually put on top of it. We frequently have to walk a line between “not too plain” and “not too much” when considering toppings for our experiments. On one hand, your classic Neapolitan pizza is nothing else besides crust with sauce and cheese on top. But on the other hand, part of what makes Pizza Lab so much fun is the diverse cast of ingredients and insane combinations we come up with.
Our initial idea revolved around the idea of using pork in some way since pork is a common ingredient in Chinese dishes. We weren’t entirely sure how to go about using it though since straight-up pork chops would be kind of boring to throw on. Instead we side-stepped the issue and threw together a kind of pseudo dumpling filling from pork chopped meat with vegetables and sauce. We figured you tend to see these guys in Chinese street food and other laid-back fare, so dumplings kind of go hand-in-hand.
The dumpling filling was pretty easy to cook up, using pork, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and a few other ingredients. We brushed some dumpling sauce onto the crust in a light layer, and then added the filling on top. We didn’t want the crust to get sopping wet, so we figured the sauce on the crust and the sauce in the dumpling filling would be more than enough.
Like most, if not all, of our Asian-themed pizzas, we ended up going with mozzarella as the cheese of choice. I will stand steadfast by the rule that ALL pizzas (save for dessert ones) need a cheese of some sort on, or it’s just not a pizza… Fortunately, mozzarella serves us well in our pies inspired by the Orient (where cheese isn’t traditionally used very often) since it has a very light flavor, while still gluing everything together with cheesy goodness.
One final touch we decided to add onto the scallion pancake pizza was actually a bit of effort, but worth it in the long run. Those noodles on top are in fact the very same crunchy, fried noodles you get from Chinese restaurants. However, we made them homemade. Interestingly enough, they’re pretty simple to make at home, you just need to be very diligent while frying since they can literally cook in seconds. And yes, I’m not using the word “literally” in the idiotic, trendy sense where it can mean anything, I mean that they seriously would go from cooked to burnt in the time it took to grab a spoon to remove them from the pan. We’ll post more about these in a future article if anyone is interested, especially because garnish or on their own, these things were really crunchy and delectable as hell.
The pizza itself was delicious itself too. The pork dumpling filling worked fine, but the real star was the scallions. We made sure to pump the dough full of ’em, and they were flavorful enough to get their delicious taste in every bite. Specifically, once you got to the outer crust, you were treated to basically an awesome onion-breadstick, a healthy changeup from most people’s reaction of “Oh man… out of pizza, le sad :<“. If you’ve never had scallions before, they really just have that classic onion-y taste that regular onions have, only without the bitterness and bite. That and they don’t make you reek of onions for hours following. But in the pizza, they were nice and subtle when baked into the dough. And lastly, the added crunch from the fried noodles really brought it together with a great texture variation. Bonus crunchiness is awesome when added to things like sandwiches, and often makes for a great garnish, and this was no exception. Effectively, the entire thing just tasted like the inside of a great dumpling house, so to summarize: this pizza was right proper.