Squash Pancakes

This dish, a specialty of the Chiu Chow, calls for a vegetable native to southern China, the water squash, or soi guah in Cantonese. It gets its name from the fact that it customarily planted along riverbanks, lakeshores, and the edges of fish ponds, so that its vines can draw nourishing water. It is a summer vegetable and only occasionally is it available in Chinatown markets, but zucchini, a year-round vegetable, can be used in its place. The two squashes have a similar texture and both are green and long, though the water squash is larger. It can grow to 18 inches in length, and have a diameter of more than 3 inches. Smaller zucchini, which the Chiu Chow call phonetically ee dai lei guah, or “Italian squash,” are the best choice. Look for zucchini about 7 inches long and weighing about 12 ounces each.–Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Squash Pancakes Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 25 M
  • Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons raw peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick, peeled zucchini slices, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
  • 3 tablespoons 1/4-inch-thick scallion slices
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch white pepper
  • 3 1/2 to 5 tablespoons peanut oil

Directions

  • 1. First, dry roast the peanuts. Heat a wok over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the peanuts, spread them in a single layer, lower the heat to medium, and allow to roast for 30 seconds. Turn the peanuts over and stir continuously for about 5 minutes, or until they are light brown. Turn off the heat and transfer the peanuts to a dish. Allow them to cool completely, then place them on a sheet of waxed paper and crush them with a rolling pin.
  • 2. In a large bowl, combine the peanuts, zucchini, scallions, egg, soy sauce, wine, flour, sugar, and pepper and stir until a smooth batter forms.
  • 3. Heat the wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the peanut oil and, using the spatula, coat the wok with the oil. Pour in the batter and spread in a thin layer. Using both handles of the wok, move the wok over the burner in a circular motion so the pancake moves around as well and does not stick. Cook for about 2 1/2 minutes, or until the bottom browns.
  • 4. Slide the pancake from the wok onto a large, flat plate. Invert a second plate of the same size over the top, and invert the plates together. Lift off the top plate. Slide the pancake, browned side up, back into the wok and lower the heat to medium. Cook, occasionally patting the pancake down with the spatula, for about 3 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed so that the pancake is neither undercooked nor burned, and add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil only if the pan becomes too dry and the pancake begins to stick. The pancake is done when the zucchini has softened and tiny brown spots appear on the second side.
  • 5. Turn off the heat. Slide the pancake onto a heated platter, cut it into wedges, and serve.

Note

  • If you want to serve individual pancakes, proceed as directed, but separate the batter into 4 equal portions. Then, cook each smaller pancake separately according to the directions for cooking a single large one.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Elsa M. Jacobson

Jan 08, 2010

I made these as part of a Chinese New Year brunch that also included Asian Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing. As suggested, I made this dish with zucchini instead of the hard-to-find/out-of-season water squash, and sought out zucchini of the size and weight described--which was not hard to do. I confess to using an all-purpose flour other than Pillsbury, as we stock an organic all-purpose at my house and I neither felt nor read in the recipe any particular reason to be brand-loyal in this case.

With a savory pancake such as this one, I am always concerned about whether it will hold together, from mixing bowl to pan to dish. This batter worked beautifully and our pancakes were surprisingly easy to maneuver, visually pleasing, and a delicious melding of the zucchini, peanuts, and egg, accented by scallions and soy--appealing in both the combination of textures and flavors.

A friend with whom I cooked did get a little bit caught up in the directions of the multiple inversions of plates in step 4. Once done properly, it was easy from there on out! I also wondered initially if a wok would be the right pan to cook them in and it turned out to be just right. The pancakes moved easily in our well-seasoned wok.

We made the larger version described, then cut them into wedges. The next time, I will try the option of smaller individual-sized pancakes as suggested in the recipe. Though these were served as part of a Chinese brunch, they would also work well as an appetizer, passed or plated, if made in the smaller individual-serving size.

The flavors are fresh and not predictable: The peanuts, for example, are not immediately obvious, creating a surprise when first tasted. This leads to a note of caution regarding nut allergies: Since it’s not evident there are peanuts in these pancakes, it’s especially important to check with guests and friends before serving, in case of health issues they might not think to disclose if they assume the pancake is a squash-and-egg concoction.

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