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Culture Note: Spring Day in China and spring flatbread recipe


立春 和 春饼的做法

Chinese thin bread for having fillings

Chinese spring pancake

homemade Chinese thin flatbread recipe

Spring Day is one of the twenty-four “solar terms” in Chinese tradition. It is called ‘Li Chun’, ‘Li’ (4) in traditional Chinese terms means ‘begin’, ‘Chun’ here refers to Spring. It means from this day onwards, the spring is beginning. It is normally on the 4th February each year. Sorry, this post is supposed to be posted yesterday, but I didn’t get the time. :)

Yesterday, I wrote on my FB page saying that ‘spring is coming eventually’. However, a friend replied, ‘well, spring is still so far away’, since over here, it is really cold, and snow covers most parts of England. But in Chinese culture, even it is called ‘Spring day’, (or the beginning of the spring’), it does not really mean that we can have the ‘spring weather’ already. It simply means that we can feel the signs of that spring breeze, and see the spring greenish is starting to come.

In the next 15 days, there will be dramatic change in nature. In ancient China, these 15 days are divided into three parts, each five days as one part. The first five days means that wind is originated from the east now, the frozen ground is gradually defrosting; the second 5 days means that hibernating worms and animals are waking up from their caves; the third 5 days means that the ice in the river is starting melting, fish begin to float up to swim towards the surface. This is why Chinese people celebrate the ‘Spring Day’. Thus, ‘Chun’ / ‘Spring becomes a very ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’ word.

On this day, the celebration of the coming spring is everywhere in China. In the past, there were way more celebration activities than now, which included formal ceremonies, making prayers for the new year, women would wear flower shaped hairpin… Nowadays, one of the major celebration still remains — the food. :))

The food for celebrating the Spring Day is called ‘Chun bing’, as in ‘Spring flatbread’. It is actually really simple — very thin soft flatbread rolled up with different fillings. To describe what it is like, I think the best way is to show you how to make it. :) Here you go.


Plain flour, hot water (but not boiling hot though, around 80 degree is enough)


1) Mix the flour with hot water, knead it into a dough. (I used 3 cups of flour with a bit less than 1 cup of hot water. The amount of the water needs to be altered depending on the flour.)

how to make Chinese thin flatbread at home

2) After leaving the dough to settle for around 30 minutes to one hour, roll the dough into a ‘tube’. If the dough is sticky to your hands and the board, rub a little bit oil to the surface, better not the dry plain flour.

3) Eventually divide the ‘tube’ into smaller portions. (It depends one how big or small you like for each flatbread, I cut it into around 4cm diameter each. )

Chinese flatbread recipe spring flatbread

4) Take two small doughs, and press them flat in round shape.

make Chinese flatbread recipe

5) Roll the flat doughs couple of times by using a rolling pin, make them a little bit bigger.

Chinese recipe to make thin flat bread at home

6) Evenly brush a bit oil on one of the flat dough.

Chinese flatbread recipe

7) Cover the oily surface by another flat dough.

how to prepare Chinese thin flatbread at home

8) Then roll the two (together) into a very thin flat sheet.

simple Chinese recipe to prepare thin layered flatbread at home

9) Place a flat sauce pan on the medium to low fire. When the sauce pan is heated up, place prepared ‘flat sheet’ into the sauce pan.

Chinese flatbread recipe spring pancake

10) Because of the heat, the middle of the flatbread will raise up. Turn the flatbread to the other side, make sure each side is well done, and not burnt. (It is normal if there is a burnt ‘brown’ dots on the surface of the flatbread, see in the picture.)

how to prepare Chinese spring flatbread at home

11) Once it is done, remove the flatbread to the plate, and carefully separate the two layered flatbread from the edge.

12) Overlap the flatbread on the plate, and make sure the plate is then covered by cling film or another plate. — It is very important to keep the softness of the flatbread by doing this. —

simple Chinese recipe making thin spring flatbread at home
Chinese Chun bing

—- Done!! :))

Ok, now let’s move on to the fillings. I actually just realized that there are so many different fillings for the Spring flatbread, when I looked up online. Different regions have different traditions of making the fillings. For example, stir-fried bean sprouts with meat mince, stir-fried (shredded) lamb meat with scallion, or even some salad (liang cai) all can be used for the filling. But in northeast of China, the most common ones are what my mum usually prepares — stir-fried shredded potato and stir-fried bean sprouts.

I have talked about the stir-fried shredded potato in the previous post. Let’s just pretend we are having stir-fried shredded potato for the filling, now we roll it up for eating: Place one flatbread on the plate, and place reasonable amount of stir-fried shredded potato in the middle of the flatbread, then roll it up. According to the traditional saying, it is important to finish it from one side to the other, means that from the beginning to the ending — metaphor that you are going to do things thoroughly in the new year.

Traditional Chinese pancakeChinese culture Chinese spring day and spring flatbread recipe

— Now, that is all about this day. Hope you like it. And tomorrow we celebrate the 15th January in Chinese calendar, also called ‘lantern festival’ — that is the end of the new year celebration. :(

Related posts:

15. Chinese fried stuffed aubergine with beef mince (Zha qie he)
27. Chinese stir fried soy beans with tofu and carrot
Chinese culture and food - Eid celebration and Youxiang
Culture note: Typical Mid Autumn Day food --- Moon Cake


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