Peking Duck Wrappers (Spring Pancakes)
February 25, 2023  Print
I made these paper-thin pancakes this year to celebrate the Beginning of Spring, also known as Lichun (立春). For many northern Chinese people, it’s a tradition to eat these spring pancakes on Lichun, which always comes in early February. Spring pancakes are usually super thin and filled with vegetables and meat that are in season at the time. Eating spring pancakes should evoke the feeling of spring. That’s why the pancakes need to be thin enough to accentuate the fresh veggies and meat that are inside.
You’ll notice the title to this post is “Peking duck wrappers.” That’s because spring pancakes can also serve as the paper-thin wrappers used to wrap Peking duck. I will share how to use these wrappers to wrap Peking duck in a future article. For now, if you already know how to eat Peking duck and you’re just looking for a guide on how to make the Peking duck wrappers, you’re in the right place.
In many parts of Southern China, people also eat spring rolls to celebrate the Beginning of Spring. I shared my Shanghai spring rolls recipe in a previous article. The idea is the same. Eating spring rolls and spring pancakes symbolizes the beginning of spring.
These paper-thin pancakes are super versatile and are great to have around. They can be used for many different purposes other than the spring pancakes. You can use them to wrap almost any vegetable and meat like a burrito.
My two boys both love these paper-thin pancakes. They can get quite creative and use them to wrap things I wouldn’t normally think of. The pancakes are especially great as an after-school snack, when the kids tend to be super hungry. I can just heat up some leftover stirfry and wrap the stirfry into these pancakes. My boys gladly eat them as a savory snack before dinner.
Preparation Time: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 15 ~18 pancakes
- ~1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 200g) 1
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- ~1/2 cup very hot water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- In a large mixing bowl, mix 1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt. Slowly pour in ½ cup of very hot water while using a pair of chopsticks or fork to gather all the loose flour to form dough clumps. When the dough is no longer hot and cool to the touch, use your hands to gather all the loose dough and start kneading.
- Use the heel of your hand to press the dough outward. Then fold the dough in half towards you and then press the dough outward again with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough slightly and repeat the same press and fold for about 5 minutes or until the dough is neither sticky nor dry. If the dough gets too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time and keep kneading. If the dough gets too dry, add a spoonful of water at a time and keep kneading. Cover and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, knead the dough again until the surface is smooth. Cover and let the dough rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.2 This allows the dough to soften which gives the pancakes a nice elastic texture.
- Dust a flat surface with some loose flour. Roll the dough into a long log. Cut the log into 15 medallions, about 20g (~0.7 oz) each. Roll each medallion into a round ball. Use a roller pin to roll each medallion into a small circle. You can also use the technique I described in my Homemade Dumpling Wrapper article to roll the medallions into small circles. Make sure to dust the surface with loose flour to prevent sticking.
- Cut each circular pancake into a circle using a measuring cup, a tin can, or a cooker cutter. Brush each the pancakes with vegetable oil and stack them on top of each other. Make sure every surface is brushed with oil. If the stack gets too tall, you can divide it into two stacks of pancakes.
- Gently press the center of the stack of pancakes with a roller pin. Then slowly roll the roller pin towards the outer edge. Flip the stacked pancakes and carefully press the roller pin again from center to outer edge to make the circle bigger. Keep rolling the stack to make the circle bigger and while flattening the pancakes. Flip the stacked pancakes every few rolls to avoid misalignment. The stack should get wider, rounder, and thinner as you roll. Once the stack is about 6 inches (~15 cm) in diameter but no more than 8 inches (~20 cm), it’s ready for steaming.3 Put the stack on a oil-brushed plate or a steamer cloth before steaming.
- Add water to a steamer base and begin heating. Once the water starts boiling, place the stacked pancakes on the steamer rack and steam for 10 minutes on medium-high. Turn off the heat when the 10 minutes are up and let rest for another 5 minutes.
- Transfer the stack of pancakes to a flat surface while it is still warm. Carefully peel each individual pancake from the stack. The pancakes can be enjoyed right away. The separated pancakes store well in a refrigerator. Leftover pancakes can be reheated in a microwave or steamer.
- Different brands of all purpose flour absorb water differently. Daehan Korean all purpose flour has the best result for me probably due to its slightly higher protein content.
- The time needed for the dough to become softer depends on many factors, like your temperature, humidity, and type of flour. So you might need to be patient and wait a little longer for the dough to become softer. If you are not pressed for time, you can just leave it for 2 to 3 hours. In that case, cover either with a tight lid or plastic wrap.
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