China Daily recently published my column titled Shaobing stack up as perfect treat even in sultry August. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:
When I think of shaobing, the fried flatbread that has become a favorite treat of mine from my mother-in-law’s kitchen in rural Zhejiang province, I often recall a sultry August afternoon a few years back, when, amid the drone of late-summer cicadas, she invited me to sit at a wooden stool beside her well-worn cutting board to teach me how to prepare it from scratch.
Making her shaobing involves frying with oil at a high temperature, which might seem an unsuitable thing for the month of August, especially when the “autumn tiger” pounces across the country with its ferocious summer heat that lingers around.
But if you had ever sank your teeth into a piece of my mother-in-law’s shaobing just fresh from the pan－where the crispy, golden exterior gives way to a savory filling of onion mingled with salted bamboo shoot－you would understand that this irresistible delight inspires cravings that know no season or circumstances.
Besides, preparing her shaobing proved easier than expected－something welcome on those muggy days when you’d prefer to spend less time in the kitchen.
Easy Vegan Shaobing (Chinese-style Stuffed Flatbread)
- Cutting board
- Rolling Pin
- Pan or electric fryer
- Onions minced
- Pickled or salted vegetable of choice (such as bamboo, mustard tubers or even olives)
- Cold-pressed oil of choice (such as canola oil or olive oil)
- Mince the onions and your salted vegetable of choice. Then mix them together with a spoonful or two of oil. (They should not be too oily – just enough to bind them together.) If the mixture is not salty enough for you, add salt to taste. (Note: There should be a half-half mixture of the onions and the salted veggie.)
- Pour flour into a bowl and add in just enough water to make dough that you can knead without having it stick to your hands. On a cutting board surface, knead the dough until it is elastic, shiny, smooth and without lumps.
- Roll the dough into a roll with a diameter of about four inches. Then, at about two-inch intervals, cut the dough with a knife into rounds.
- Cradle the rounds in the palm of your hand, and using your fingers create a bowl-like crater. (Note: don’t make this too thin – the edges should still be around a half-inch thick.) Stuff it with the vegetable mix, then pull the edges of the dough over the top to seal it inside.
- Place the stuffed rounds on a floured surface. Using your hand, press down first in the center of the dough, then out to the edges. Keep flipping it over and repeating this process, making sure to shape it into a circle, until it’s thin enough to roll out.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the dough from the center to the edges applying medium pressure. Flip it over and repeat. Keep flipping and rolling out the round until the edges are very thin. (Note: the vegetable filling may occasionally poke holes through the round; this is expected with this type of flatbread and doesn’t affect the final product.)
- Heat a spoonful of oil in a non-stick pan or wok over medium heat, or on electric fryer. Add the flatbread, cooking it until it no longer sticks to the pan and is crispy and slightly browned (about 1 and a half to two minutes.) Flip and repeat for other side.Once done, cut the flatbread into four pieces and serve immediately.