The first day of the Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, arrives on January 25. Following are fourteen days of festivities concluding with the Lantern Festival. Each day honors a different food, starting with dumplings and concluding with sweet glutinous rice ball soup. These holidays are not just celebrated in China but in many other places that have or had a connection to China, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, although each region has its own twists and traditions.
Each year has a real or mythical animal that it represents; this year is the Year of the Rat. I just returned from two weeks in China, where New Year’s decorations were starting to go on sale, and guess who appeared as a rat on some of the paper posters and stickers? Mickey Mouse.
This recipe is from a friend from Dalian, China, whose son and his wife live in Mountain View. Sujie came to the house and taught us how to make these pancakes. They are made with a common filling that can be also used in dumplings, steam buns or eggrolls. To make the filling stick together, a ball is made with your hands and the mixture is thrown against a bowl a few times. It keeps the meat mixture from falling apart and could be used with any meatball recipe.
The pancakes are made by rolling out the dough into a circle, covering three quarters of it with the meat mixture, then folding the circle into quarters leaving you with a triangular slice. Finally, the open end is sealed and the slice is fried on both sides. It is comfort food and perfect for this time of year.
Sujie’s Chinese pancakes
2 cups flour
¾ cup warm water
½ teaspoons salt
1 pound ground beef or pork
¾ cup minced yellow onion
¾ cup minced green onions
¾ cup finely grated carrots
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 tablespoons mirin or cooking wine
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
To make the dough, combine flour and salt and whisk to blend in a medium bowl. Warm the water. It should be very warm but not too hot to touch, about 110 degrees. Add water to flour mixture until you have a soft dough that doesn’t stick to the board when kneaded. Cover in plastic wrap until ready to use.
To make the filling, you can mince the yellow onion, the green onion and ginger all together. Then combine all the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl with a broad bottom. Form the mixture roughly into a ball then throw the ball hard against the bottom on the bowl. Do this four or five times. Set aside.
Divide the dough into balls that are smaller than a tennis ball but larger than a golf ball.
Roll dough into a thin 10-inch diameter circle. Make a straight cut halfway into the middle of the circle (the radius). Below the cut and around, add filling to ¾ of the circle, leaving ¼ unfilled. Take the unfilled quarter and fold down over the adjoining quarter of the circle. Then fold up over the next quarter and finally over the final quarter. You will have a pie slice that is one quarter of the original circle. Seal the open edge with water, fold and crimp to make a thin crust.
Heat a frying pan or griddle with high heat cooking oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the pancake and cook for about 4 minutes on each side until golden and meat is done. Serve with soy sauce and rice wine or Chinese black vinegar.