Easy Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake 春饼)

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Once I cooked some Chinese Chun Bing (春饼), a thin, soft flatbread popular in Northern China, for my guests at a dinner party. They praised me by saying: “Wow, nice tortilla! Looks like we are having Mexican food tonight!” By then I realized they do look and taste similar to Mexican flour tortilla. That evening, everyone enjoyed my “Chinese tortillas” wrapped around various Chinese stir-fry fillings. They were also impressed by its natural taste and simplicity. Today I’d like to show you how to make them with just 2 ingredients.

Chun Bing is often translated in English as Spring pancake because it’s a traditional food to celebrate the beginning of Spring (立春). They are actually appreciated all year around in Northern Chinese households. They are also known as  Duck pancakes  because they serve as  wrappers for the famous Peking roasted duck. There are two ways to cook Chun Bing: steamed or cooked in a pan. Steamed ones are softer and have a clean, smooth look. Pan-cooked ones are slightly drier and show brown spots on the surface. I like to call them Chinese tortillas since it gives those unfamiliar with Chun Bing a fairly good idea what it looks and tastes like.

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Normally, five key ingredients are required to make Mexican flour tortilla: flour, baking powder, oil (shortening), salt and water. Whereas Chinese tortilla needs only 2 ingredients: flour and water. It couldn’t be simpler. Well cooked Chinese tortilla is soft, moist and very thin. In order to achieve the right texture, here are my two tips on making the perfect dough:

  1. Through experiments, I found  that the best flour water ratio in weight should be around 1.5 : 1. However it might vary slightly depending on the brand of the flour (It’s better to use plain / all purpose flour containing around 10-12% of protein). Adjust to find the perfect ratio that works best for you. The finished dough should be soft but not sticky.
  2. It’s important to use hot water (soon after being boiled). This way the dough is partially “cooked” before rolling, thus it will take less time to cook through in the pan. The tortillas will have a very supple and tender texture. This kind of hot-water dough (烫面) is common for making steamed or pan fried dumplings.

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Apart from simple ingredients, Chinese tortilla is quick to make. For example, my recipe is for making 16 of them, but you only need to cook the rolled out dough 8 times in the pan. Why? Because you can stack two pieces of dough, then roll them out and cook at once. That’s why only one side of my Chinese tortilla has brown spots on.

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

At first, you might find it a bit tricky to roll out the dough very thinly. Dusting the work surface and the rollin pin from time to time will help a lot. When you get the hang of it, you can try my recommended workflow to speed up the cooking process.

  1. Cut the dough into equal-sized pieces. Flatten each piece into a round disk. Stack every two of them to form a double-layer dough (brush a little oil in between).
  2. Roll out the first double-layer dough into a 18cm / 7inch circle. Cook in a heated pan.
  3. While waiting for the first dough to be cooked (check and flip over when necessary), roll out the second one. When the first one is done, transfer it onto a plate then cover with a kitchen towel. Put the second one into the pan. Then roll out the third dough…
  4. Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough. When all done, gently separate the double tortillas while they are still hot.

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Traditionally, Chinese tortillas are served with several plates of savoury dishes (usually containing meat, egg, tofu, vegetable, etc.) placed in the middle of the table. Each diner picks up what he/she wants to wrap in the tortilla. The dishes I served the other day were Spicy cumin chicken thighs and green beans, Hot and sour potato stir-fry and Garlic sprout omelette. There are no set rules about how to enjoy Chinese tortillas. Feel free to use them in the same way as you serve Mexican tortillas, or with anything you fancy as a filling.

Easy Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake 春饼)
Rate this recipe
Average: 4.5/5
5 ratings

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 16 Chinese tortillas (about 18cm / 7inches in diameter)

Easy Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake 春饼)

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

Ingredients

  • 360g / 2.5 cups plain flour (all-purpose) + extra for dusting if necessary
  • 230ml / 1 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (for brushing)

Instructions

  1. Put flour into a heat proof bowl. Pour in hot water (soon after being boiled). Stir with a pair of chopsticks or a fork until the flour turns into small lumps and no more water can be seen. When cool enough to handle, knead the mixture into a soft, smooth dough (see note 1).
  2. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or other breathable cloth (to avoid condensation). Leave the dough to rest for 30 mins at room temperature.
  3. After resting period, knead the dough again on a work surface. Then cut it into four equal portions. Roll each portion into a cylinder then divide it into four pieces.
  4. Flatten each piece (with the palm of your hand) into a small round disk. Brush the top of one disk with a little oil, then place another disk on top. With a rolling pin, roll these 2 disks into a 18cm / 7inch circle (It’s better to roll both sides to make sure two disks are evenly rolled out. Dust the surface and the rolling pin with flour to avoid sticking ).
  5. Heat up a frying pan on a medium high heat. Place the rolled dough into the pan. When you see air pockets appear, flip it over to cook the other side (see note 2).
  6. Transfer the cooked tortillas onto a plate. Cover with a kitchen towel to keep them soft and pliable.
  7. Repeat the procedure to cook the rest of the dough (See note 3).
  8. Finally, gently separate the double tortillas while they are still hot. (See note 4).

Notes

1. The ideal flour water ratio may vary slightly depending on the brand of the flour and how you measure it (Measuring with cups is less accurate). You may also use a stand mixer to make the dough .

2. Cookers vary in temperature. Be attentive to control the heat of the pan. If the pan is too hot, the tortillas will burn. If it’s not hot enough, the tortillas will take longer to cook and will be drier. It should take no more than a minute in total to cook both sides. Adjust the heat accordingly.

3. Recommended workflow: Have all the small disk-like dough oiled and stacked. Roll out the first one then put into the pan. While waiting for the first one to cook, roll out the second one. When the first one is done, the second one should be ready for the pan. Repeat the procedure.

4. Reheat the tortillas in three ways: In a microwave: Heat up 8 Chinese tortillas at a time. Place them on a microwave safe plate. Sprinkle a few drops of water over the tortilla on top. Cover with microwave safe cling film (pierce several times). Cook on full power for 1 minute. In an oven: Wrap the tortillas in tinfoil (ideally in two piles). Put into a preheated oven at 180°C / 350°F. Heat for 6-8 minutes. In a steamer: place them onto a plate. Steam for 4-5 minutes.

https://redhousespice.com/easy-chinese-tortilla/

It seems I wrote a very long post for a very simple recipe! Hope all my tips will help you make perfect Chinese tortillas with ease. Tell me what kind of Chinese dishes you would like to cook as a filling for the tortillas.

Happy cooking!

An enthusiastic cook with a Chinese palate and a global mindset.

Read other scrumptious recipes using dough:

Spiced beef flatbread (香酥牛肉饼)

Spring onion flatbread, leavened (葱油发面饼)

Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortilla (Spring pancake) is made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.
Tender, supple and very thin, Chinese tortillas (Spring pancakes) are made with only two ingredients. Perfect wrapper for any fillings of your choice.

I'd like to hear from you