My friend Suzanne, who still lives in San Francisco, has a wonderful hand for Asian cooking. It comprises her favorite flavors, textures, combinations, and colors. So when she was married in a lovely, quiet vineyard in the Napa Valley, her menu naturally featured Asian foods. Small stations were set up all around the property, some serving cold foods, and some hot foods prepared before a fascinated audience.
I have no memory of the array of foods, save for pancakes with, I believe, some sort of meat filling. Truly, they could have been filled with dried leaves and they would have been as remarkable. They had a chewiness I've never experienced before or since. And a texture. Seeds of some sort? And a flavor all their own. They were not mere vehicles for a filling.
Tonight is an egg sort of night. I need some gently scrambled eggs. But not eggs alone. I need something to hold them tight. I'm on a mission.
I looked around through various of my cookbooks and on the web seeking recipes for Asian pancakes. All recipes agree that the ingredients are few: all-purpose flour and boiling water in a general ratio of 1.5 parts flour to 1 part water. Some include either salt or sugar, as much as a teaspoon of the latter. Some recipes call for sesame oil in the dough, while others want the pancakes brushed just before cooking. All recipes call for resting the dough after kneading it briefly, for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. I used Ming Tsai's method of shaping it after kneading: he instructs us to roll it into a log about 2 inches in diameter so that it can easily be cut into equal portions for shaping the pancakes. Some specify that two pancakes should be rolled together, then cooked together, and separated afterwards. Ming Tsai rolls and cooks his individually. I know that the ones I am remembering were cooked individually.
As for that texture, clearly some of it is going to derive from rapidly mixing flour to which boiling water has been added, developing a good amount of gluten. I also added some brown sesame and chia seeds. And the boiling water. I know I want mushrooms with my eggs, so I used some dried shitakes. I poured boiling water over them and let them sit for 15 minutes to soften and also to infuse the water with some of their wonderful, concentrated flavor. And that water went into the pancake dough to also deepen its flavor. —boulangere