Dish #15: Scallion Pancakes (China)

I love good Chinese food. (Secret confession: I like Panda Express too, so I guess I also love bad Chinese food…). On TV, people seem to always get Chinese take out that looks really good. Maybe it’s a New York thing because I haven’t found good Chinese take out here in L.A. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I’m just saying I haven’t found it.
At home, I make stir frys frequently. Chow Mein and fried rice too. That’s the extent of my Chinese cooking. Those are easy. Most of the Chinese food I like, I can make relatively easily, but I discovered the dishes aren’t as authentic as I’d thought. They are very Americanized. Which is fine, but for the purposes of my little global project, I was going for something more authentic.
I’m going to be honest with you here: I did this entire meal all wrong. I didn’t read the instructions close enough before beginning and I didn’t allow myself enough time. I rushed through the whole recipe for both items I made and I think it made all the difference, but not in a good way.  Part of this blog, though, is sharing my kitchen adventures, good and bad (it wasn’t as bad as my Shish barak experiment, but still, not great).
First, I made Scallion pancakes (using this recipe riiiight here)
These were good. And very easy to make. I think letting the dough rest would have been a good idea, but I didn’t, because, you know, patience.
Scallion pancakes are a Chinese unleavened flatbread folded with sesame oil and minced scallions. They are different than a Western pancake because they are made with dough instead of batter. These are commonly found as a street food or even pre-made in the grocery stores.
I did like these and I would like to try to make them again, but more patiently this time. They are supposed to be really flaky, and I think patience is the key to that. Mine weren’t so flaky.  You know what would also be good? Actually having one from a Chinese restaurant. That way I know exactly what they are supposed to taste like. But, see my lament above: Where is the good Chinese food in L.A.? Anybody?
I also made Char Sui. Well, that was the intent anyway.  There is the restaurant down the street from me called Rutt’s. It’s actually Hawaiian, but there are lots of Asian influences in Hawaiian cuisine.  We always get the Hawaiian breakfast bowl, part of which includes Char Sui, which is basically Chinese roasted pork belly.
I found this recipe here and offer my biggest apologies to the author of this page because I royally messed this up.
1. The patience thing again.  I didn’t let the meat marinade nearly long enough (or at all).
2. I couldn’t find pork belly at my regular grocery store and I didn’t really have the opportunity to go search it out. I used pork tenderloin which really isn’t the same at all. It isn’t even from the same part of the pig!
3. I couldn’t find Chinese 5-spice powder. I figured I could go to Whole Foods or Bristol Farms, but since this is just a fun little project just for me, I didn’t really want to spend the extra money to do so.  I tried to make my own, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on Star Anise (which was really expensive). I had the other ingredients, so I just went with that.
I roasted the tenderloin with the sauce.  It was fine. It didn’t taste like much and I was really disappointed in myself. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly, though, which was a first for me. I don’t roast too many pork tenderloins because I tend to overcook them, but the texture of this one was perfect.
I think I will definitely try this again with actual pork belly. And more time.  If I can recreate those Rutt’s breakfast bowls at home, I will have a happy, happy household!

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