薄饼 - Báo Bíng - Mandarin Pancakes
Báo Bíng are a type of delicate, bland crepe used in Northern style Chinese cuisine
primarily for serving Beijing Duck
, my cookbook
tells me that they're also used in a dish called Mu Shu Pork
which is a kind of complicated shredded pork & egg dish with Tiger Lily
buds that I've never eaten or made.
The pancakes are somewhat fiddly to make, it's easy to destroy several of them and I always
burn my fingers making them but that's part of the fun I guess. You can get store bought ones but seriously, they're are absolutely crap compared to what you'll make below, I know every cook has a pretentious thing about how the hand-made, done from scratch stuff is better but I've set store-bought with hand-made side by side and my guests all agree that the hand-made ones are immensely superior. That said, when I serve Beijing Duck, I have a pack or two of the frozen ones around for just-in-case.
It's fiddly at first but once you've made a few, you'll get the hang of it and with some patience, you'll turn out enough for a whole banquet.
The recipe below is restated from a great cookbook
of mine which has some amazing and obscure Chinese dishes from a variety of regional cuisines. I find that doubling the recipe below will provide enough pancakes to serve the meat from two ducks, which is about enough to feed five or six people with some sort of side dish and soup or dessert.
The actual pancake ends up as a delicate crepe, firm on one side but soft and almost uncooked on the other. It is used as a vehicle for the main dish as well as filling. I suppose it's not a million miles removed from a pub-lunch Yorkshire pudding
in that regard though the execution is considerably more complex.
Makes: about enough for one duck
Making the dough
Place the flour in a large bowl and slowly pour in the boiling water while stirring with chopsticks
. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and stir until the dough comes together then let cool. Once cool, knead until the dough is soft and smooth, adding more flour if necessary (but be sure that it is). Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave for 15 minutes.
Making the pancakes
Knead the dough again for a couple of minutes and divide into two portions.
Keep one portion covered in the bowl and roll the other one evenly to 0.5cm thickness.
Using a round cookie cutter
(or a conveniently sized glass) cut out pancakes 5cm (2 inches) in diameter1
. Knead the scraps into the other half of the dough and then repeat the process with that. Apparently you should have about 28-30 but I usually have a little less than that.
Lightly brush the remaining oil onto a single side of half
the pancakes. Lay an unoiled pancake on top of each oiled one until you have about 15 very small pancake sandwiches. Cover all the pancakes with a cloth to prevent them drying out while you're working and then proceed with the second hardest part of the process.
Take each 5cm pancake sandwich and roll it out until it's about 15cm (6 inches) in diameter, roll both sides and work out from the centre. Try not to squish the edges too much as we want the two sides to remain evenly aligned.
Sounds odd? Wait until later when we'll see those two layers again.
Cooking the pancakes
My recipe book suggests a heavy frying pan which I'm sure would work well but I use a very thin little non-stick crépe pan
with excellent results. Oil is not required, just heat the pan to a medium heat
and slip in a pancake. Fry it until it begins to bubble and small brown spots appear, then flip it and fry until bubbles appear there too, this should take less than a minute on each side. You should see hot air make a pocket between the two layers and you'll need that for the next step.
Now comes the tricky part, the complement to the rolling out earlier. The instant you remove the pancake and before
it has cooled, carefully separate the two layers. This has to be done carefully to avoid tearing it but most of all it has to be done quickly because when cool, the layers will stick together. Use a butter knife
or similar thin, blunt blade and carefully slip it into the seam of the pancakes and then gently pull the two layers apart. Once separate, stack the two pancakes with the same side up and move to the next pancake sandwich.
You'll probably burn your fingers a little; unless you have some fancy cotton cook's gloves
that's pretty unavoidable as if you wait for the pancakes to cool then they will stick and tear. There is no alternative to handling the hot pancakes that I know of, just tough it out and hope your guests appreciate it.
Storing the pancakes
If you want to do this in advance (and I strongly suggest that you do), they can be frozen and kept for some time. They'll also keep just in the fridge for a day or two. If you forgot or just want to do it all in one go then just make them while you're drying your Beijing Duck
, that dish has hours of waiting around so there is plenty of time to make the pancakes.
Cooking the pancakes again
Before they can be served, you need to steam them.
Use a bamboo steamer or a saucepan/steamer set if you like; cut some baking paper or cheesecloth to line the bottom of the steamer and stack and steam the pancakes. The fried side will prevent any stickage though you usually lose the bottom pancake because it's stuck to the paper or the steamer.
Steaming takes about 10-15 minutes or until soft and pliable and can be done while serving everything else.
1: Elsewhere, Sneff makes the suggestion to start with a larger pancake. Given that we're cutting these rather than rolling lumps of dough out as in DMan's example, I'd adapt that by cutting the pancakes to 5cm and then rolling them out to 10cm before continuing. That should help get an even spread of oil in the following step and might make the separation a little easier. I haven't yet tried this technique.
Florence Lin's Chinese Regional Cookbook 1975 ISBN: 0-8015-2674-4
A few dinner parties.