Thin Pancakes

Baobing

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Right after the wheat harvest, when there was plenty of fresh, sweet flour, Mrs. Chiang’s mother would often make a bing meal, in which everything was eaten rolled up inside pancakes. Moo Shu Pork, a popular specialty of America’s “mandarin” restaurants, is a bing dish. Szechwan was famous for them, and Mrs. Chiang’s mother made dozens of different kinds. Many of the recipes in this cookbook can be made as pancake fillings: Cucumber, Carrot, and Cellophane Noodle Salad; Pork, Cucumber, and Cellophane Noodle Salad; Dry-Fried String Beans; Bean Sprouts; and the filling for Spring Rolls which produces an extraordinary Szechwanese version of Moo Shu Pork. Almost any dish consisting of shredded ingredients can be eaten inside a pancake.

    The pancakes themselves are easy to make. Mrs. Chiang’s are neither too fragile nor too coarse. You can make them in advance, but, if you do, keep them covered so they don’t dry out. Reheat them in a steamer or low oven just before serving.

    Method

    Preparation

    3 cups (all-purpose) flour

    ¾ cup water

    Mix the flour and the water together. (Don’t hesitate to plunge right into the dough with your hands to get it really well blended.) The dough should be very stiff and dry. Set it aside for at least 30 minutes.

    Knead the dough for 2 minutes. Then divide it into three sections. Roll one of the sections into a long snakelike shape and cut it into 8 small pieces, each piece about the size of a walnut. Do the same thing with the other two pieces of dough.

    Flour as needed

    Prepare a large floured surface for rolling out the dough.

    Roll one of the walnut-sized balls of dough into a thin circle, roughly 7 inches in diameter. Roll out a second circle of dough the same size.

    Sesame oil

    Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil (¼ teaspoon should be plenty) on the surface of one of the pancakes and cover it with the other pancake.

    These pancakes are so thin that it is easier — and quicker — to cook two of them together.

    You are now ready to fry the pancakes. (Since it takes a few minutes to cook each pancake, it is easier to roll out each set of pancakes right before you cook them rather than try to prepare them all ahead of time.)

    Cooking

    1 to 2 teaspoons peanut oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan with a thin film of oil

    Heat the oil in a small, flat frying pan (not a wok) over a high flame. When the oil is ready for cooking, put a double pancake into the pan and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Then turn it over and fry it for another minute on the second side. Later pancakes will probably take less time to cook.)

    Because they have a tendency to puff up, these pancakes do not brown evenly. Fully cooked ones are mainly white with some brownish spots.

    Pull the two pancakes apart before you serve them.