Now me, I grew up calling these sorts of devices “egg rolls.” It wasn’t until I got to be in high school that I began to know them as spring rolls. That was when one of my father’s oldest friends married a Chinese woman who happened to own one of the best Mandarin restaurants in Chinatown. We started eating there once a week, so I had to at least appear to know the lingo. These below are what I always thought were “spring rolls”:
Spring rolls began showing up on American Chinese menus in the 50’s and 60’s. That’s easy to understand when you consider they’re not Cantonese but hail from the Eastern and Northern regions of China, where they’re typically eaten during spring festivals. Thus the name. Chinese spring rolls are made with wheat skins as opposed to rice paper (the latter being Vietnamese).
The ultra-thin wrappers are made via an unusual technique whereby a large mass of high-gluten dough is dabbed on a hot plate. The skin cooks up in about a minute, and is then peeled off. More on that in the tutorial. For now you’ll need:
The only application I know for Mandarin pancakes is as a holder for moo shu pork. I know there much 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.
Good Mandarin pancakes are very, very thin. Much more so than flour tortillas which are frequently substituted for them. Sigh. The rolling method is ingenious. You basically roll two at a time, back-to-back, then peel them apart. So simple it’s beautiful, no? You’ll need:
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
6 ounces (3/4 cup) boiling water
Sesame oil for brushing