Food Junk food Vegetarian friendly

Review: Genghis Grill Green Onion Cakes

Genghis Grill Green Onion Cakes, in their mysteriously generic Planet Organic packaging.

I couldn’t tell you how it happened, nor why it remains this way, but green onion cakes are synonymous with Edmonton’s festival season.

For the uninitiated, green onion cakes are round, pancake-like discs of flour, water, chopped green onions, salt, and sesame oil, fried flat on an oil-drenched grill. That may not sound appetizing when I spell it out like that, but it’s surprisingly yummy.

Each cake is cut into smaller pieces – usually quartered – and these pieces are then dipped in condiments. The holy trinity in these parts is plum sauce, soy sauce and Sambal Oelek hot sauce.

But if you’re from Edmonton, you already know that.

These Genghis Grill take-home green onion cakes aim for convenience, and they nail it. Put them on a tray in a toaster oven, warm them up until they’re hot and crispy on the outside, then cut ‘em up and eat ‘em.

The flavour is like the ones at Edmonton festival vendors, just not quite as fresh. It’s a simple but perfect combination of tastes — greasy and salty, with an onion and sesame oil kick.

The texture is also just right. It’s chewy and dense, but not so dense that the dough can’t wick up soy sauce. There are layers of folded, overlapping dough between the scattered green onions, making for something akin to the world’s heaviest, flattest croissant-style pastry.

They’ll never replace the fresh – and hilariously overpriced – between-plays snack at the Edmonton Fringe Festival, but in a pinch, they’ll do just fine.

Genghis Grill Green Onion Cakes, cut and served with a puddle of plum sauce. They're also great with soy sauce and Sambal Oelek hot sauce.

RATINGS AND DETAILS

Cost: $5.99 for a four-pack of CD-sized green onion cakes at Planet Organic.

Value for cash money: $1.50 per cake is a whole lot cheaper than the price at a festival vendor’s cart. But they’re also much smaller than the 7- or 8-inch cakes you’d spend $3 or $4 for.

Availability: I got mine at Planet Organic in Edmonton, but I’ve seen them at other local grocery stores, too. I noticed a bag of them in the U of A Sobeys deli area. Other brands may be available in the freezer aisle.

Nutrition?: The package isn’t much help on portion control. The provided nutritional info is per 30 grams (they call that one serving, which is absurd), and no per-cake approximate weight is given. A quick trip to the kitchen scale says that each cake in the package I bought is roughly 90 grams. That means that per 90-gram cake, there are 300 calories, 13.5 grams of fat, 315 mg of salt, and 6 grams of protein. And that’s not counting dipping sauces.

Packaging: The only way I know these are made by Genghis Grill is because the shelf tag at Planet Organic said so, and because the lettering on the bagged packs at Sobeys is the same as on these. There’s no address, no phone number, and no branding on this package at all. What gives?

The verdict: Great for scratching the green-onion-cake itch, especially out of festival season. Less fresh, but also much less oily, than the fried-fresh festival staple.

A single Genghis Grill green onion cake, before being chopped into four quarters. Note how the green onions are worked into the dough.

8 Comments

  1. Love green onion cakes. As far as restaurants goes, Lemongrass cafechas best ones in town. They have that great puffy texture.

    • Iain Ilich

      Lemongrass Cafe? I’ll have to check it out. It’s close to the Italian Centre South, correct?

      As for the worst green onion cakes in town … I nominate Wok Box. They’re deep-fried to a crispy dark brown, which ruins the texture and drowns out any nuance.

  2. I can probably tell you the ‘how’, but even I’m puzzled about the ‘why’. Having spent*cough cough*twenty-some years volunteering at the Edmonton Fringe, green onion cakes as I recall, were probably one of the first finger foods on-site(them & the mini-donuts I think) And for a few years they were Everywhere …if you saw someone carrying food or munching on food, at least 6 out of 10 times the food in question was green onion cake. For years it was/they were certainly ‘part & parcel’ of my Fringe experience.

    • Iain Ilich

      As much as I love chowing down on green onion cakes at the Fringe, by about the third day of reviewing plays, I’m craving food that isn’t soaked in oil or slathered in special garlic sauce. Ooohs and aaahs can be heard in the media room when someone brings in a bag of baby carrots from home. 🙂

      I actually figured out how to make my own green onion cakes a few years ago (expect a recipe on Nearof later this summer), so I have some respect for the amount of labour required to make such a seemingly simple snack. Rolling and flattening are needed to get the fluffy, layered texture. Not hard to make, but it takes time/effort to get them right.

      Which, dare I ask, is your favourite dipping sauce? I’m all about the plum.

  3. Yes, lemongrass cafe is by the Italian centre. They’re also good at Friends and Neighbours cafe on whyte. I believe the chef/owner at F &N used to cook at lemongrass for many years. At Lemongrass, they have sweet/spicy sauce that I really like. If you go, be sure to eat them in the restaurant when they are served hot and fresh. Something gets lost in transit during takeout–they lose their fluffiness en route.

  4. I go to Canada a few times a year and am now hooked on Onion Cakes….Somebody pleeeze tell me how to find some in TEXAS (Dallas, preferably) so my relatives won’t have to keep stuffing them in their suitcases when they come to visit!

  5. Are these Gluten-Free wehat kind of flour are they made with?

    • I’m not sure, though I think the label on the package says “flour,” which would no doubt be wheat flour. So very much filled with gluten. If you’re not afraid of a bit of kitchen work, you can make green onion cakes at home. You should be able to find recipes online, and you can try substituting your favourite gluten-free flour for the wheat flour. No idea how well it would work, though. Good luck, and do report back with your findings if you give a gluten-free recipe a try.

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