I moved to Edmonton, Alberta in the summer of 2009, and tried my first Green Onion Cake at that summer’s Folk Fest. These savoury pancakes, filled with green onions and typically eaten with sambal hot sauce and black vinegar, are Edmonton’s favourite and beloved snack food. There’s even been a movement to name them Edmonton’s official dish.
Green Onion Cakes were first introduced to Edmonton by restaurateur Siu To. Originally from Northern China, Siu opened his Parkallen neighbourhood restaurant Happy Garden in 1978. Then in the 1980’s Siu’s pancakes became a staple at Edmonton’s festivals: as our summer festivals boomed and became one of Edmonton’s trademarks, so did Siu’s Green Onion Cakes.
Called Cong You Bing in China, and Scallion Cakes in the US, Green Onion Cakes are characterized by their flaky layers and chewy texture. While some versions are deep fried, Siu’s cakes are pan fried (from fresh or frozen) giving them their deliciously chewy texture. The dough is leavened with baking powder, and once rolled out it’s brushed with a mixture of oils then sprinkled with salt and sliced green onions. The dough is then rolled to create the essential layers of dough, sesame scented oil, and freshly sliced green onions.
In partnership with the Team at Edmonton Tourism, Siu taught a series of classes at Get Cooking in 2018, before launching his newest venture, the Green Onion Cake Man Restaurant on 118 Avenue. It was a wonderful experience meeting Siu, hearing his story, and trying his Original Green Onion Cakes. If you’re in Edmonton, you can go and try his delicious pancakes too, Tuesday to Sunday from 11 to 7.
Or if you’d like to make your own, consider a class at Get Cooking. We’ve combined Siu’s recipe with one from our friend Ming Franks, who grew up making Green Onion Cakes with her family, using leftover dumpling dough. And this summer we’re localizing our Green Onion Cakes using Green Onions grown in the field at Prairie Gardens in Bon Accord. We love serving them with fermented Garlic Chili sauce from the local food artisans at Meuwly’s too.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve taken our classes online so you can join us virtually on Zoom, from anywhere in the world, and cook along with the Get Cooking team. Sign up for a class to receive the recipe, and during the class you can choose to cook along or sit back and watch while we share with you our tips and techniques for making perfectly delicious Green Onion Cakes, at home.
This summer our festivals may be cancelled, but enjoying a delicious and aromatic green onion cake doesn’t have to be. You can still savour the taste of Edmonton’s originals, made by Siu To at his restaurant in Edmonton. Or you can join us at Get Cooking and learn how to make them yourself, for a backyard festival of your own. And if you’re not in Edmonton? You can join us anyway for a virtual class, and find out why these savoury pan fried cakes became our city’s favourite bite!