Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My FIRST Blog Award & Melding East & West: Chinese "Ramp" Pancakes

For those of you who have not heard of and/or had a ramp, you're probably wondering what they are.  Ramps are one of the trendiest vegetables in the food industry right now.  They are in such demand now that the New York Times even wrote an article expressing concerns of ramp shortages in the future.

A wild leek that grows from Quebec to Georgia in mountainous regions during the first few weeks of spring (typically arrives in the beginning of April), they have been used for centuries as a spring tonic.  There are even "ramp festivals" in the South.  For roughly $12 per pound, they are definitely not cheap. But it definitely worth investing in one bunch which usually runs between $3-4.  Just a warning that they shrink dramatically when cooked, so that one bunch is barely enough for two people.
Around March, I start dreaming about ramps and all the ways I have used them...ramp pizza, ramp risotto, ramps on top of my hot dogs with a tomato marmalade jam, ramp pesto, etc, etc. Some photos of the various ways I have cooked with them are below.
Ramp Pizza

Ramp Hot Dogs with Tomato-Basil Marmalade

Spring Primavera Risotto with Corn & Ramps

Why are people so obsessed with them though? For me, I love its delicate garlicky and floral flavor.  Just the smell of a fresh bunch in my hands gets me excited.  It's probably also the fact that they are available for just a few weeks a year.  It is a definite call that spring is here! This year, I thought for sure I was going to miss them with all my work travels. I saw them in Seattle at Pike Place Market and nearly cried that I was so close, but unable to purchase any.  Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on a few at the Union Square Farmer's Market. We are coming towards the end of ramp season, so run to your nearest farmer's market and see if they might still have some for you to try!

I decided to try my hand at a few different recipes this year including as a side for my Easter dinner.  I am featuring my version of Chinese Scallion Pancakes this year, substituting the scallions with ramps.  I grew up loving these crispy, pan fried treats in my house.  My mom used to make them in big batches all the time and we would just take it out of the fridge and onto the pan whenever we wanted a pancake.  But it has been years since she has taken the time and effort to make them by hand.  Scallion pancakes are pretty much readily available at every Chinese take-out restaurant and in the frozen food aisle at Asian supermarkets.  There is just something about making it at home though as I'm sure you can all attest to.

This time around I really wanted to know how to make them myself. So on a weekend home in NJ, I asked my mom to teach me how to make them.  To my surprise, I found out that the recipe wasn't hers but my dad!! So, here is my tutorial session with my dad on how to make traditional Chinese scallion pancakes (called cong you bing in Mandarin but pronounced like "chung yo beeng") using an untraditional local ingredient. Thank you daddy!!

It sounds complicated, but it is actually quite simple and uses less than five ingredients!  Now, I am warning you that they are not the healthiest things, but in small doses it never hurts!

Chinese "Ramp" Pancakes
Makes 6 pancakes

INGREDIENTS
2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup hot water
1 bunch ramps, washed thoroughly with ends taken off and chopped finely (or 5 stalks scallion)
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Salt (I used sea salt, but iodized table salt is fine)

DIRECTIONS
1.  In a large bowl, create a crater in the flour and slowly add the hot water.  It should start to come together. The hot water keeps the dough moist and soft. Knead the dough until it becomes elastic and starts to form into a ball.

2.  Finish kneading the dough on a wooden cutting board. The dough should have a little shine.
Look at my dad go!!

3.  Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm spot for the dough to rise for approximately 20 minutes. It will not rise significantly like yeasty dough does, but will definitely grow.

3.  Cut into 6 pieces. Roll out the piece of dough into a round shape; it should be roughly 1/8 inch thick.

4.  With a pastry brush, lightly coat the rolled out dough with olive oil. Scatter the ramps evenly on top of the dough. Add a pinch of salt over the dough. Repeat with the other 5 pieces of dough.

5.  Then, roll the dough back up and fold together on both ends and form into a ball again. Make sure no ramps are sticking out of the dough.

6.  In a large bowl, cover the dough with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.  You can cook it immediately as is if you do not have the time.  Letting the dough rest adds an extra crisp to the finished pancakes. The dough in the oil can actually stay refrigerated up to a week.

7.  Roll out the dough on the wooden cutting board again until 1/8 inch thick.

8.  Over medium heat, cook each pancake 10 minutes on each side or until browned.

9.  Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle salt to taste on the pancake.  It can also be served with a sauce made from soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil with a bit of sugar.

Before signing out today, I definitely want to give a HUGE thank you to Elyse from the Cultural Dish for checking out my blog and passing on these lovely awards to me! THANK YOU, THANK YOU for reading and for caring enough about what I write to recognize it.

Since this is my very FIRST award, I hope I am following all the rules to it properly.  :)

7 fun facts about myself that I want to share with all of you (some of you know this already, but I am revealing my kryptonite to the unknown world now!)
  1. There are two celebrities I hate most in the world: Bette Midler and Beyonc√©.  I have no idea why...I just really, really hate them. Sorry for all you lovers of either of them.
  2. I start crying over everything from those ASPCA commercials to Little Mermaid and even Transformers. Yes...Transformers
  3. I own over 100 pairs of shoes (I know it's frightening!!) but really wear about 10 of them constantly.
  4. I wrote several fan letters to John Stamos (he has my same birthday!) and started a fan club in 6th grade.
  5. I ran away from home when I was 9 years old and hid in my friend's attic.  It lasted 2 hours before my guilt wore me down so my mom never even knew.  Instead, I just got in trouble for not picking up my 5 year old sister from kindergarten.
  6. I used to bring home stray animals all the time to nurse including a baby bird whose mother died.  There were turtles and chameleons involved as well. This did not make my parents happy.
  7. I am finishing up this blog while at work as my "break". Shhh....
And last but certainly not least, a shout out to all the fabulous blogs who I am following.  I am paying it forward by giving these well-deserved awards to them too.  It is so inspiring to see so many talented, untrained/trained cooks and bakers out there.  Their heart and soul goes into every post and I am so honored to be a part of this new realm of foodie bloggers. Thank you for welcoming me into your community and providing me such great feedback!


This is only a short list as there sooooo many of you out there! Thanks to everyone again and keep on eating and cooking.   





7 comments:

  1. First, thank you so much sharing the award with me, much appreciated! Second, your Chinese Ramp Pancakes look AMAZING, I can not wait to try them! Love your blog, keep up the great writing!

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  2. Thanks for the award! This is an awesome post. Looks like your dad was rockin' in the kitchen...good for him! I do love scallion pancakes and will definitely try them, with ramps if they can still be found here (not sure). Do you use only the green parts? And do you really own over a 100 pairs of shoes? Where on earth do you keep them all??? Funny about your John Stamos fan club, I started one for Kirk Cameron when I was in 4th grade :-)

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  3. firs of congratulations on the award and thanks for passing it on to me.
    second, you know it's such a great timing that your post is about chinese pancake. today we ate at o-dae-san, a korean bbq in LA and they served something very similar to this. my daughter loved it and she said that i should get the recipe and try doing it. thank you for saving me time to look for one haha.. thank agai for the award. and twas great to meet you!

    xo,
    Malou

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  4. Mistress, no I used the entire thing! The white stems of the ramps are not as strong as scallions or leeks can be. And yes, I really do have over 100 pairs (including flip flops, sandals, etc). I have half of them in my studio in the city (thank god I actually have a large closet for NYC) and the rest is scattered at my parents home in NJ. :)

    Tiffany, thanks for reading!

    Skip to Malou, please do let me know how it goes for you. If you do make it with your daughter, it would be great if you could share photos on my Facebook page.

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  5. Congratulations on your awards! Thank you for including me in your list. I'm trulyhonored. I thought your "about me" fact were hilarious! Poor Bette and Beyonce! lol

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  6. Thanks Katrina! I'm glad we found each other's blogs. :)

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  7. I love the flavor of ramps and would love to give this recipe a try. The risotto looks delicious too!
    Oh, and I used to bring home injured animals too! It drove my parents insane, but they always let me as long as I took care of the little creatures on my own. We must be kindred spirits.

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