If you’re looking for an excuse to celebrate, you needn’t look far. Before the glow of one jubilant holiday fete can fully fade from view, yet another occasion to rejoice arises from its ashes. Depending on which traditions you hold dear, you could easily keep the party going 365 days a year, without even delving into the more dubious list of unofficial observances. Keeping up with the standard routine is hard enough on an average day, but a calendar peppered at random with noteworthy events can become downright intimidating.
Mardi Gras and the Lunar New Year happen to fall on consecutive days this year, each arriving with a riot of colors, rituals, and lucky foods. Pressed for time and sufficient enthusiasm to properly honor both, I was suddenly struck by one unlikely common thread, uniting Creole and Chinese customs: Pancakes.
Fat Tuesday earns its moniker for all the indulgent edibles typically served during the festivities, particularly pancakes. Fluffy, flat, big, or small, every unique twist on the humble breakfast cake is welcomed with open arms- And a sticky pitcher of thick maple syrup. Less common but no less appreciated are savory renditions, ideal for balancing out the inevitable deluge of sugary sweets.
Chinese pancakes exemplify the pinnacle of pancake perfection for revelers craving salty snacks instead of desserts. Impossibly thin, flaky layers cradle flecks of green onion, just assertive enough to be heard above the baseline of nutty toasted sesame. Built upon the simplest of ingredients and just undeniably, apologetically rich, each narrow wedge tastes like a joyous carnival all by itself.
Clearly, it was high time for these two cultures to become acquainted.
Unexpected Cajun and Creole flavors infuse this time-honored dim sum addition, drawing bright citrus notes into the stratified dough itself. The real coup de gras, however, is delivered in the fiery dipping sauce. A cool and creamy base balances out a wide palate of spices, ranging from warming to immolating. Once blended and melded the resulting harmony of heat could easily become a new standby to accompany any cuisine.
Citrus-Scallion Pancakes with Dynamite Cajun Dipping Sauce
Dynamite Cajun Dipping Sauce:
1 Cup Vegan Mayonnaise, Homemade or Store-Bought
2 Tablespoons Sriracha
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, Finely Minced
1 Tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1 Teaspoon Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
6 – 8 Tablespoons Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Scallions
1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
1/4 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
3 – 5 Tablespoons Peanut Oil
To prepare the dipping sauce, simply mix everything together, adding sriracha to taste. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve, for up to two weeks.
For the pancakes, mix together the flour, 6 tablespoons of the warm water, lemon juice, and sesame oil in a large bowl. Stir until the liquid is absorbed, adding more water one teaspoon at a time as needed until the dough pulls away from sides of bowl. The goal is to create a cohesive, firm dough that is barely tacky to the touch.
Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until smooth. Cover with a moist towel for 20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
Meanwhile, take this opportunity to mix together scallions, garlic, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
After resting, roll the dough into a skinny snake-like shape and cut into 20 equal pieces. Roll each segment into balls and keep covered with the towel.
Working with one small ball of dough at a time, place on a well-floured surface and roll into a circle approximately 4-inches in diameter. Brush liberally with peanut oil, sprinkle with 1 – 2 teaspoons of the scallion mixture, and roll the pancake up tightly like a rug. Curl the roll around in a spiral, pinch the end to seal, and flatten it back out into a very thin circle, about 1/8 of an inch in thickness. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Heat one tablespoon of peanut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pan fry the pancakes, one or two at a time, until the bottom is golden brown and perfectly crisp. Keep warm in a low oven or slice into wedges, serving immediately alongside the dipping sauce.
Makes 20 Pancakes