The awesomeness of Chinese flatbreads

The humble Chinese spring onion flatbread. Crispy flaky skin with a salty and savoury filling. Deliciously moreish eaten just off the pan. What’s not to like?

They’re commonly known as pancakes BUT are really more like flatbreads – China’s equivalent of a yeast-free bread, and very similar to the Indian Paratha. Eaten as a breakfast item or a street snack, they’re more prevalent in northern China where there’s a tradition for cooking with wheat.

Best of all, you only need FIVE ingredients to make them! FLOUR, WATER, OIL, SALT… and of course SPRING ONIONS.

These are ingredients most people have in their kitchen. But if spring onions are not to your liking, flavour the flatbread with anything you like. Try coriander, dill, dried herbs/chillies, or cheese. And for the sweet tooth, try sugar or chocolate drops!

The preparation technique is a little similar to how you would make flaky puff pastry… thin layers of dough separated by fat and repeated folding and layering. “Lamination” is the technical word for it. Note the use of hot and cold water, which makes the dough much easier to fold. You also need to throw it about – call it stress relief!

Take a look this video by quirky chef Martin Yan for a great demo on what’s involved!

Okay here is the recipe. Have a go…by hand or use a food processor if you’re bit lazy.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 3- 6 minutes per flatbread

Ingredients to make 12:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 450g plain flour
  • 300ml boiling water
  • 50ml cold water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt for seasoning
  • 5 finely chopped spring onion

Equipment:

  • Bowl
  • Chopsticks/ wooden spoon
  • Clingfilm
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry Brush
  • Non-stick pan

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and mix in 300ml boiling water with a wooden spoon. Stir for a few minutes, then as soon as it is cool enough, start to knead the mixture.
  2. Add 50ml cold water and continue to knead for 3-5 minutes (dust with more flour to stop it sticking to your fingers) until it forms a firm but silky dough. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.
  3. Knead the dough roughly for stress relief (!) Then when you are ready, roll the dough into a sausage and divide into 12 equal pieces.
  4. Roll one piece into a thin disc. Brush with oil, season with salt and sprinkle with spring onions.
  5. Fold the edges of the pancake into the middle so the mixture is encased then roll up into a ball and tuck the end underneath. Repeat process with the remaining dough.
  6. Take one roll and re-roll into a disc. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once hot, reduce the heat and add the first disc. Fry for 2-3 minutes each side until crisp and golden.
  7. Continue rolling out the remaining rolls, cooking them as you go. You will need to add a little more oil after you have cooked several. Serve hot. You can do the preparations in advance and just fry them up when you are ready to eat.

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