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CHINESE VEGETARIAN RECIPES

74. Chinese Corn flour flatbread

how to make Chinese flatbread with corn flour
Chinese corn flour flat bread

苞米面饼

Actually, I am not too sure about the translation into English — this is another ‘Bing’ recipe with corn flour, or maybe it can be called ‘corn flour bread’ or ‘corn flour pancake’ in English?

Corn flour in Chinese cooking

If you mention this corn flour flatbread in China, many many Chinese people from older generations would tell you many stories — after all, this is the kind of food that accompanied them during poorer days, and left them with plenty of memories.

I heard these stories from my grandparents and my parents. When food was scarce, having something to fill up one’s stomach became the most important thing. Having fine rice and flour was like a luxury dream out of most people’s reach, so this corn flour flatbread became their happiness. They said they used to think corn flour was one of the most delicious things, they could even taste the corn’s sweetness in it.

However, as life conditions got better and better, it became almost impossible to find corn flour in large cities.
My grandparents and my parents told me that I should treasure the comfortable life we have now, it seemed we surely left corn flour behind. So I never really had chance to try it, well, not until my second year in university.

All second year art students in my university had to visit country side to practice life landscape painting skills. We picked up a small village by the sea side as the destination. It was a very beautiful and quite place with nice sea front views and green mountains behind us. It was very special particularly for us, who grew up in the busy cities, rarely had chance to experience other kind of life.

However, after the excitement was gone, we still had a few weeks left. We were still enjoying our stay, but the problem was it was too far away from anywhere, which made it very difficult to find different varieties of food. After wandering around, we discovered two places. One was a morning market; we needed a lift from the locals, and it would take at least half an hour to arrive there; another was the local fisherman’s houses, see if they could sell us something. So that was the first time I ever tried corn flour flatbread.

I remember I was quite emotional after having heard so many old stories. I even bought some back for my mum.

Nowadays, as I mentioned in another post, having this kind of food becomes ‘trendy’ again, my parents’ generation like to have them to recall their old days, but for most of us, it is just a healthy choice. Many even have it as part of their ‘weight control’ diet.

I started making it myself only in recent years, I did not know that corn flour is a popular ingredient here in UK, and all those delicious Mexican recipes. However, corn flour here is a bit different to the one in China. Chinese corn flour is more finely grind, it is more like normal flour. If you can get the very good quality corn flour, you can even taste a bit ‘sweet’ from the original corn, so there are many Chinese recipes with corn flour as ‘sweet cake’.

The recipe: Chinese corn flour flatbread

In the old traditional way, prepared dough for corn flour flatbread is to ‘stick’ on the inside of a big deep wok, but nowadays, it is difficult to find this kind of wok anymore, so we just use normal flat sauce pan with a bit oil instead. In an article I just read about the story of this corn flour bread, the write says this modern way of cooking corn flour bread makes equally good taste, but the old memory is altered…

Anyway, this is how I made it, one of the most basic ones — so easy to prepare.

Ingredients:

Corn flour, plain flour (you don’t have to use plain flour), oil, yeast

Preparing:

1) Mix corn flour and plain flour with yeast and warm water together into a good dough. (I used 3 cups of corn flour, 1 cup of plain flour and 6gm of yeast, 1 1/4 cup of warm water).

2) Leave the dough to rise.

Chinese corn flour
Chinese corn flour

3) Then divide the dough into smaller portion, and roll it into around 0.5cm thin layer. (Normally it is around 15 diameter big, but the size does not matter.)

Chinese corn flour dough

4) In the heated flat sauce pan, pour in 1 tablespoon of oil, make it evenly spread in the sauce pan.

5) When the sauce pan and oil is hot enough, place prepared thin corn flour bread dough into the sauce pan.

Frying Chinese corn flour
Frying Chinese corn flour

6) Turn sides time to time, until it turns golden colour, well cooked. –

Chinese corn flour flatbread
Chinese corn flour flatbread

– Done!!

It is good to go with congee, or pickles, or soups — something not too dry, and quite light. — How simple! But like we said, it is not all just about taste, but the memories as well…

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132. Northeast Chinese shao mai (I)

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