There’s a man with a cart not too far from where I am staying in Beijing. He pedals to the same spot every morning – the clang of the old spokes on the footpath a distinctly Beijing version of the ice cream truck jingle. But ice cream is not what he is selling. He makes and sells spring onion pancakes or xia bing. I couldn’t help myself and gave into the smell and look of his perfectly golden and crisp pancakes.
I really loved the flavour and texture and tried to replicate it at home. Here is the result.
Perfectly portable spring onion pancakes made with wholemeal flour and flecked with spring onion. Best eaten folded in half and filled with my Buddha Belly Bean Salad – a simple, wholesome black-eyed pea and chopped choy sum salad, dressed with tamari, sesame and garlic – couldn’t be simpler.
For the pancakes:
1½ cups wholemeal flour – plain flour can be used here
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup tepid water
2 spring onions, green parts chopped roughly
Safflower oil, for brushing
For black-eyed pea and choy sum salad:
1 cup black-eyed peas, cooked and cooled
1 cup choy sum, blanched and chopped into small pieces
3 tsp tamari – or soy sauce
1 tsp white vinegar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp palm sugar
¼ tsp toasted sesame oil
½ tbsp garlic, minced
Fresh red chilli, chopped
Sift the flour into a medium bowl and add salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the water. Using your hand, slowly mix the flour and water until it comes together into a soft dough.
Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover and set aside to rest for 30 minutes or so.
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions.
On a lightly dusted worktop or board, take one portion of the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is about 2mm thick – the thinner the dough at this stage, the crispier the pancake will be.
Brush the rolled out dough with a little oil and sprinkle with spring onions. Roll the pancake up tightly from two sides towards each other. Press and seal the edges. Now, starting from the end closest to you, roll the dough again to form a snail. Turn it on its side and squash gently with the palm of your hand to flatten a little. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
Place a fry pan over a medium-high heat and add about a tablespoon of oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, place a pancake in the pan and cook for approx. 3-4 minutes on each side, turning once, until the pancake is golden brown and crisp. Repeat with remaining pancakes.
Serve simply with a dipping sauce of rice vinegar and tamari or stuff with a filling of your choice. I filled mine with a simple black-eyed peas and chopped choy sum salad (recipe below)**
**In a bowl, combine the soy, vinegar, sugar and salt to taste. Mix to dissolve the sugar.
In another bowl, combine the cooked black-eyed peas, chopped choy sum and garlic. Add the dressing to the bowl along with a dash of sesame oil and chopped chilli. Mix well to combine.
Makes 4 pancakes