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Author Notes: 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
For the Pancakes
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms, about 1/4 ounce
8 ounces boiling water
1 1/5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon brown sesame seeds
2 teaspoons chia seeds
Reserved water from the mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Additional flour for kneading, about 1/4 cup
For the Scrambled Eggs
4 large eggs, whisked together
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt and some grinds of pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Greens of 4 scallions, 1/4" dice
12 whole sprigs of cilantro
4 long greens of scallions
- Measure mushrooms into a heat-proof bowl. Add the boiling water, then cover the bowl with a plate to retain the heat. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain the mushroom liquid into a small saucepan. Add the salt and sugar and bring back to a boil.
- Measure the flour and seeds into a mixing bowl. Add the boiling mushroom water and the sesame oil. Stir quickly to blend. When stirring no longer is effective, turn dough out onto a work surface. Press it together with your hands, then begin kneading it. Kneading this warm, soft dough is pure pleasure. When dough begins to stick to your hands, add a tablespoon or so of flour. Continue kneading and adding bits of flour until dough is no longer sticky. You probably won't need the entire 1/4 cup of additional flour, but keep it handy because you'll use some for rolling the pancakes. The whole process of mixing, kneading, and shaping only takes about 5 minutes.
- To shape into a cylinder, roll dough into a general log shape. Stand it up on each end and press gently against the work surface to square off the ends, creating a uniformly shaped cylinder about 2" in diameter and about 6 inches long. Wrap with plastic and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- Gather all the ingredients for the scrambled eggs while the pancake dough is resting. Everything is going to come together very fast.
- Use a bench scraper to cut the dough into 8 pieces. Work with 1 pancake at a time. Sprinkle a bit of flour (a tablespoon or so) on your work surface. Press it flat and thin with the palm of your hand. With a rolling pin, roll each out to about 7 inches in diameter. Set each aside with a piece of parchment between them. This will also take about 5 minutes.
- To cook, warm an 8 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pancakes one at a time in the dry skillet. They should bubble on the top side while browning on the underside. Use tongs to turn them over and remove from the skillet. Stack them on a plate with the pieces of parchment between them. Once all have been cooked, wrap a kitchen towel around them to keep them warm while you cook the eggs.
- Use the same skillet to cook the eggs that you used to cook the pancakes. Warm it, with some olive oil to film the bottom, over medium heat. Add the eggs, salt and pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Move them around very gently. When they are half done, add the mushrooms and scallions. Continue moving everything around gently. Remove the skillet from the heat before the eggs are completely dry. They want to be very tender, and will finish cooking on their way to being wrapped up.
- Lay out 4 pancakes. Arrange 2 whole sprigs of cilantro along the center of each one. Divide the eggs between them, and place a spring of cilantro on top. Roll the pancakes up into cylinders. Tie closed with the whole pieces of scallion green. Garnish plates with some drops of Sriracha. Consume immediately. The pancakes should be chewy, but tenderly so, and with a subtle crunch from the seeds. And the eggs should be as gently soft as can be.
- Wrap the remaining pancakes in plastic and store in refrigerator, or freezer. To reheat, lay between 2 damp (not wet!) paper towels, and warm in a microwave on medium setting.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Pancakes, Sweet or Savory