Making Mandarin Pancakes

The only application I know for a Mandarin pancake is as a holder for moo shu pork. There must be others, but in my universe that’s more than enough. What’s fascinating about these pancakes is that they’re extremely thin and flexible while containing no egg or fat. Just white flour and hot water. It’s the boiling water that’s the key, it quickly creates a starch “gel” that keeps the pancakes supple. Begin by combining the water and flour in a medium bowl or a mixer.

Stir for about a minute until a shaggy dough is formed. Switch to the dough hook.

Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes (5-6 if you’re doing this by hand) until it’s smooth, then wrap it in plastic. Let it sit for half an hour.

When you’re ready to make the pancakes, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

Roll it into a log about a foot long.

Score it in the middle.

Make four hash marks at equal distances on either side.

Cut the log along those lines into ten pieces that are more or less equivalent.

Gently press and/or roll the pieces into squat cylinders.

Dust the board lightly with flour, then roll the cylinders a few times in one direction…

…then the other.

You’ll have a disk about three inches across.

Paint it very lightly with sesame oil.

Do the same with another cylinder, and brush that one with sesame oil as well.

Lay them on top of one another, oiled sides together. Make similar sandwiches out of the rest of the dough pieces.

Now roll one sandwich out until it’s at least seven inches across.

Eight or nine is better and not any more difficult. These pancakes are better when they’re thinner.

Oh, did I say that meanwhile you should have a seasoned cast iron or nonstick skillet heating over medium heat? Do that. When it’s hot brush on some vegetable or peanut oil.

Lay in the rolled pancake sandwich.

Cook it about two minutes, until light brown spots begin to appear. Then flip it.

After another two minutes, remove the pancakes from the pan and peel them apart. Cool, no? Stack them on a plate under a towel, they won’t stick together.

To make moo shu pork with them, use the back of a spoon to apply a some hoisin sauce to the top (the side with the brown bits). This is best done at the table to impress your family and friends.

Lay on a few spoonfuls of moo shu pork. Instructions not included (how much free time do you think I have?). However here’s a tip when making moo shu pork: chop your ingredients to a very small size, smaller than you’re ordinarily comfortable with. This is especially true of the pork. You should be worried that you might be making ground pork by accident.

Using two spoons to manipulate the pancake, fold up the bottom…

…then one of the sides…

…then flip the whole thing over onto the unfolded side.

Serve to the delight and amazement of all those present.

UPDATE: Reader Lee tells me my pan was too hot. Had I reduced the temperature I’d have had fewer steam bubbles and a more even color and texture. Thanks Lee! I’ll remember that for next time!

12 thoughts on “Making Mandarin Pancakes”

  1. Love this! Reminds me of scallion pancakes – so much more to the technique than meets the eye.

    1. Apparently they are scallion pancakes, Katie, I just didn’t know it. Check out June comment!


      – Joe

      1. That scallion pancake is awesome (ok, I made it with sesame seeds instead, because I don’t like scallions, but still!). I was going to post the same link!

  2. Hey Joe,

    Don’t forget that these pancakes are also used for Peking Duck. Just buy the duck at your local Chinese barbeque (they will cut it for you). Slap on some hoisin, a scallion, the duck and then apply to face.


    1. EXCELLENT. Thank you, Rick. I knew I kept you around for a reason! 😉

      – Joe

  3. I’ve been dying to make find a way to make a sweet flatbread for the sweet side of savory, to make h”healthy” wraps 🙂 with fruits and whips and chocolate…could this be made lightly sweet some way (i.e., caster sugar or honey)?

    1. You certainly can, Angie! Just add some straight to the dough in the mixing step!

      – Joe

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