Thin, soft and pliable, Peking duck pancakes can be easily made from scratch. They’re perfect wraps for any fillings of your choice.
What are duck pancakes
An essential element of the classic Peking duck meal, Peking duck pancakes are known as Chun Bing/春饼 meaning spring pancakes as they’re a traditional food for celebrating the beginning of Spring (Li Chun, 立春). Sometimes they might be referred to as Mandarin pancakes.
Made with wheat flour and water, Peking duck pancakes are cooked either in a steamer or a pan. Compared to the popular tortilla, they are much thinner and have a smoother appearance. Apart from Peking duck, many other Chinese dishes, such as Aromatic Crispy Duck, Moo Shu Pork, Bean Sprout Stir-fry, etc., can be enjoyed inside these pancakes.
This recipe introduces an efficient method to make them in a frying pan (without any oil). It also includes many useful tips to help you succeed. A tutorial video is placed inside the recipe card at the end of the post.
Make a hot water dough
Peking duck pancakes are soft, moist and very thin. To achieve the right texture, you need to get the dough right.
- All-purpose flour (aka plain flour) containing 10-12% of protein works very well for this recipe.
- It’s important to use hot water (soon after being boiled) to mix with the dough. This way the dough is partially “cooked” thus taking less time to cook through in the pan. Also, hot water dough produces a supple and tender texture (It’s also used for making steamed dumplings).
- To make 16 pancakes, you’ll need 360g flour and 230g hot water. The ratio may vary slightly depending on the brand of the flour. Adjust accordingly. The finished dough should be soft but not sticky.
Once the dough is formed, coat it with a little oil and leave to rest for 30 minutes in a bowl covered with a lid.
Afterwards, divide the dough into small pieces and shape them into round discs. Try your best to divide them as equally as possible. This will make the next step neat and smooth.
Roll and cook two pancakes at a time
Once the dough pieces are ready, it takes two simple steps to turn them into Peking duck pancakes: flatten with a rolling pin until very thin, then briefly cook in a pan without any oil.
To make rolling easier and speed up the process, apply the “double pancake” method and follow a good workflow. Here are the procedures and tips (see tutorial video below for reference):
- Brush a layer of oil on the top of a dough piece, then place another piece on top. Repeat to stack up every two pieces. Roll out the first double-layer dough into a very thin circle (about 18 cm/7 inches).
- Transfer it into a heated pan. Cover with a lid and leave to cook over medium heat. When air pockets appear, flip over and cover to cook the other side. It should take no more than 2 minutes. Adjust heat level if necessary.
- While waiting for one pair of pancakes to cook (check and flip over when necessary), roll out another pair. When the first pair is done, the second pair should be ready for the pan. Follow this workflow to finish the rest.
- Remember to always cover the cooked pancakes with a clean kitchen towel. This way they’ll stay soft and pliable.
🛎Troubleshoot: If you find the pancakes on the dry side, this could be caused by: 1. You didn’t cover the pan while cooking so too much moisture has evaporated; 2. You didn’t cover the cooked pancakes with cloth so they’ve dried out. To fix the problem, simply steam them for a couple of minutes.
Separate the pancakes
Once you finish cooking, gently separate all the double-layered pancakes into single pieces. This needs to be done while they’re still warm. If you do so when they’ve gone cold, it’ll become impossible to separate them neatly.
What to serve with
▲ Homemade Peking duck with pancakes and vegetables
Not only are these pancakes essential to a Peking duck meal, they’re also served with many other dishes in Chinese households. As I mentioned earlier, they’re a festive food to eat on Li Chun Day. The typical fillings include raw ingredients like cucumber, scallions, pickled vegetables, and stir-fried dishes made with meat, egg, tofu, vegetables, etc. Each diner picks up what he/she wants to wrap in the pancakes.
Here are a few dishes that would make delicious fillings:
How to store and reheat
You may store leftover Peking duck pancakes in air-tight bags in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month or so. They can be reheated in two ways.
- In a steamer: Steam for 3 minutes if chilled or 6 minutes if frozen.
- In an oven: Defrost first if frozen. Sprinkle a little water between each pancake. Then wrap them in aluminium foil. Put into a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F. Heat for about 6 minutes.
Peking Duck Pancakes (Chun Bing, 春饼)
- 360 g all-purpose flour (aka plain flour)
- 230 g hot water (just boiled)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil - for brushing
Make and rest the dough
- Put flour into a heatproof bowl. Pour in hot water (soon after being boiled). Stir with a pair of chopsticks or a fork until small lumps appear and no more loose flour is left.
- As soon as cool enough to handle, knead the mixture into a soft, smooth dough (You may also use a stand mixer).
- Keep the dough in the bowl. Brush a thin layer of oil over it to avoid drying out. Cover the bowl with a lid and leave to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Prepare the dough pieces
- Briefly knead the dough again. Then cut it into four equal portions. Roll each portion into a cylinder then divide it into four pieces (You'll end up with 16 pieces). For best results, try your best to divide the dough as evenly as possible.
- Flatten each piece with the palm of your hand into a small disk. Brush the top of one disk with a layer of oil, then place another disk on top. Repeat to pile up every two dough pieces.
Roll and cook the pancakes
- With a rolling pin, flatten one pair of disks until they measure about 18cm/7in (flip several times to ensure that two pieces of dough are evenly rolled out). If necessary, lightly oil the surface and the rolling pin to avoid sticking.
- Heat up a frying pan over medium heat. Transfer the rolled pancakes into the pan. Cover with a lid. As soon as air pockets appear, flip over to cook the other side. Be attentive and adjust the heat if needed. When the pan is too hot, the pancakes will burn easily. If it’s not hot enough, it will take longer to cook and the pancakes will be drier. It should take no more than 2 minutes to cook both sides.
- Transfer the cooked pancakes onto a plate. Cover with a kitchen towel immediately to keep them soft and pliable.
- To be efficient, follow a good workflow to cook the rest of the pancakes: While waiting for one pair to cook, roll out another pair. When the first pair is done, the second pair should be ready for the pan.
Serve and store
- As soon as you finish cooking, separate all the double pancakes into single pieces (Don’t delay this step as they'll become difficult to separate once cooled). Serve them warm with fillings of your choice (check out the recipe for Roast Peking Duck).
- Store leftover pancakes in airtight bags in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month or so.
- To reheat, Steam for 3 minutes if chilled or 6 minutes if frozen. You may also use an oven: Defrost first if frozen. Sprinkle a little water between each pancake. Then wrap them in aluminium foil. Put into a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F. Heat for about 6 minutes.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.