It's treated like a side dish, but Szechuan Noodle Bowl’s scallion pancake is the whole damn meal.

Image: Amber Fouts

It’s always the precursor, never the main event. Even its Americanized name, “green onion pancake,” undersells its interior, an Escher drawing of chewy layers. But the cong you bing, ubiquitous in China and Taiwan and nearly so on American Chinese menus, deserves the level of respect and obsession generally accorded to bagels or pastry or pizza.

The best ones—say, at Szechuan Noodle Bowl in Chinatown–International District—are flaky as any croissant, pan-fried until golden on the surface and crisp enough to rival the best french fry or potato chip. A comfort superfood.

One pervasive legend even claims Italian chefs invented pizza only because Marco Polo returned from China obsessed with its savory flatbread. It’s a dubious claim, to be sure, but pizza and scallion pancakes do share one key attribute (besides their ability to be sliced into handy grippable wedges): Even the mediocre ones are still pretty damn good.