If you have been reading my posts, you probably already know that I am kind of ‘crazy’ about Chinese flour based food, mainly, Chinese bread, and particularly Chinese flat bread. I find Chinese steamed bread without fillings a little ‘plain’ for me; I have to have it with soup, pickles for other dishes. In contrast, Chinese flat bread normally has more flavors, I could just have it as snack — non-stop. If I ever put on too much weight, it is often because my intake of flat bread gets out of control.
This layered flat bread is a homemade version of ‘Jin Bing’, a famous kind of flat bread that is eaten in combination with ‘Tofu Nao’ in northeast China. The difference between homemade ones to the ones sold in the markets is the thickness. This homemade version is thiner and simpler.
I learned to make this flat bread when I was seventeen. I remember it exactly because the first time I cooked it, I was living with my dearest grandma. And that day, I made a quite hard one. My grandma was in her early eighties, and had lost many of her teeth by then. I was too careless to realize that the flat bread I made was too difficult for her to chew— I did not have many chances to cook for grandma, and that time not making it suitable for her to eat became one of my biggest regrets…
A few years ago, a friend asked me if I had any regrets in life, I cried — yes, if I can rewind and go back in time, I would have taken better care of my grandma, just in the way she took care of me, with all her love and patience…
Over the years, I think I have improved my skills; so, I would like to share this recipe here with you.
The main feature that distinguishes this flat bread from the others is the ‘layers’. Normally, for example when making ‘Shaobing’, we can obtain different layers by rubbing a bit oil and seasonings on the pre-prepared pastry sheet before ‘rolling’ it into the final shape. But in this recipe, there is another small ‘knack’ to create promising layers while keeping the flat bread thin and crispy.
The trick is to ‘stir-fry’ the dry plain flour with oil first, then roll it in between the pastry sheet. It is not difficult to make, just be careful don’t burn the flour, when ‘stir-frying’ flour with oil. ‘Stir-fry’ plain flour sounds strange? -:) It is actually quite common in Northern China (there is a popular ‘congee’ like snack called “You Cha Mian” which is made with ‘stir-fried’ plain flour).
Another difference is that when trying to avoid the dough getting sticky on the preparation board, and when shallow-frying it, oil is always used (where for other kinds of flat bread, it is normally to use the plain flour or just plain heated sauce pan with a touch of oil).
You may think that this recipe requires a lot of oil, but when you actually eat it, it does not taste oily at all. :)
Here it goes.
Plain flour (I used 4 cups of plain flour in total, 3 cups for making the actual dough, 1 cup for ‘stir-frying’ for making around 4 – 5 flat bread, but it also depends on how big you would like it to be)
Oil and salt
1) Mix 3 cups plain flour with a bit less than 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of salt, knead it into a dough. Allow it rest for at least 15 minutes.
2) In a heated saucepan, pour in around 4 tablespoons of oil, then add in 1 cup of dry plain flour, stir the flour with oil immediately, let the flour have the full contact with oil. Add some oil if it is need it. In the end, the flour is no longer in its ‘powder’ form, and allow it cool down.
2) Divide the dough into 4- 6 smaller portions (of your choice).
3) Roll the small dough into a thin flat sheet. (Making it thin can help creating more layers later.)
4) Put ‘stir-fried’ oil flour in the top of the sheet, it does not have to be evenly covered up the whole surface.
5) Roll the sheet up.
6) Now, it is similar to making ‘Shaobing’ — hold the roll upright, and twist it as much as you can, then press it down to flat.
7) Roll the ‘flat dough’ again into a sheet, say around 0.5cm thickness?
1) In a heated flat saucepan, pour in around 3 tablespoons of oil.
2) When the oil gets hot, place a pre-prepared ‘sheet’ in the sauce pan.
3) Turn side to side until both sides turn ‘golden’ colour and get ‘crispy’. –
As I said, it is commonly combined with ‘Tofu Nao’, but it is also good just as a side dish on the table along with the main meal, or congee.