May 25, 2009

Stop the Rip-Off!: A Restaurant-Quality Treat at Home

Adzuki bean paste pancakes or 豆沙鍋餅, this classic Chinese dessert never fails to bring back the memories of my younger days. For as long as I can remember, my family's been having these crisp filled pancakes at special occasions. They can be found at my grandpa's and great uncle's (i.e. my grandpa's younger brother) birthday dinners, the annual pre- and post-Chinese New Year dinners (開工及收工酒, which are both a Cantonese practice especially among those who own a business), and at some wedding dinners sometimes. About 40 of us, including my extended family members, would get together at a Chinese restaurant and have a feast for two hours. Ah ..., those good ol' days!

Surprisingly, I learned that these pancakes are actually Shanghainese! So, they're traditionally filled with adzuki bean paste filling when served sweet. But with as much as I could recall, those that I had were normally filled with sweetened lotus seed paste filling instead. I guess this may be due to the cultural environment I grew up in as most Chinese descendants in Malaysia and Singapore are of southern Chinese descent, including Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew and Hainanese.

Since there isn't any Asian grocer around where I'm, I could only use what was on hand: adzuki beans! Wasn't it a good thing that I was sticking to the Shanghainese way of fixing this dessert LOL! Remembering I still had some homemade adzuki bean paste frozen, I took it out to use in this beloved dessert. It's always nice to have some homemade paste on hand. So, it's advisable make a big batch and freeze for future use. Trust me, nothing beats homemade adzuki bean paste! Just a few days ago, my family-friends bought some canned one. And oh my, it was yucky! No adzuki bean flavor and very sweet! Tasted just like a plain cotton candy!

Both the recipes for this pancake dessert and the adzuki bean paste were taken from one of my favorite bloggers Seadragon, another fellow Malaysian beaming from the Down Under. Making them on your own is really worth the effort because having them at restaurants is really a rip-off! Just look at the ingredients! Do you think you deserve to pay that much money just to eat it!?

Without further ado, here're the recipes (adapted from Seadrogon's):

For the pancakes:
Makes about five 20cm pancakes

120g all-purpose flour

1 egg 250ml water
30ml oil

1 tsp all-purpose flour/cornflour
1 tsp water
250g sweetened adzuki bean paste (the amount is really up to you actually and depends upon the number of pancakes you get out of the batter)
  1. Sift flour into a mixing bowl; combine (B) together and gradually mix into flour, mix whisk together until smooth and lump-free--strain it through a fine tammi if you have to
  2. Mix in the oil to the wet mixture to combine and let rest for 15 minutes aside
  3. Heat a nonstick frying pan, for 20cm pancakes, over moderate heat. Then, lightly rub some oil over the surface of the pan
    * I don't have a frying pan that fits the description exactly. So, I just made the pancakes with my wider pan. That means, my pancakes were wider than 20cm ones. Nonetheless, nonstick ones are highly recommended to avoid possible mess!
  4. Pour in about 80ml of the batter onto the pan and swirl to coat the surface of the pan with the batter evenly
    *This is also a matter of personal preference. If you like your pancakes thinner and crispier, use less batter for each pancake. And, vice versa. But of course, not too thick!
  5. Cook the batter over medium heat till set on one side, then flip the pancake over and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Dish the pancake out and onto a plate
  6. Repeat with the remaining batter till it's used up. Stack one pancake over another, cover with a towel till you're ready to use them. Let them cool slightly before filling, folding and rolling
  7. Divide the bean paste into 5 portions with each weighing at 50g, then roughly shape each into a 7cm x 14cm rectangle
    *Again, it's a matter of preference whether you like yours with lots of filling or less. And, it depends on the size of your pancakes
  8. Combine together (C) to get a slurry
  9. To assemble:
    (i) Brush the edges of each pancake with the slurry to create a "glue"
    (ii)Place an adzuki bean paste rectangle at the center of the pancake, then fold one end over and towards the center to cover the bean paste
    (iii) Next, fold both the ends/sides (whichever you'd like to consider them as) that are now on your left and right respectively towards the bean paste
    (iv) Finally, bring the last end that's unfolded towards the center to enclose the "package"; repeat with the remaining pancakes and bean paste
    You can freeze the "packages" now, wrapped in plastic film, if desired. There isn't a need to thaw them--just remove them from the freezer and shallow-fry as they're.
  10. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, then pour in enough oil for "shallow-frying"
  11. Fry each "package" of the pancakes till golden brown on both sides, dish out onto a plate
  12. Slice each into e.g. 4 sections, served hot or warm
For the sweetened adzuki bean paste: 
Makes about 500g

300g dried adzuki beans
800-1,000ml water
150-200g sugar, or adjust to taste
50-100g lard/cooking oil, or adjust to taste (but, lard really gives the paste an oomph)
  1. Soak the beans in enough water for at least 3-5 hours, or overnight; drain
    *I always soak these beans for two nights. That's an advice from my mom, she always told me that they're tough beans. So, it's best to soak them for a long period to cut down on the cooking time.
  2. Bring the 800-1,000ml water to a rapid boil in a saucepan, then add in the beans to cook over low heat until they're split and softened
    *I always check for their doneness by squishing a bean to see if they're soft enough to pass through the sieve
  3. Drain the beans and pass them through a sieve as this will give you a very fine texture
    *I'm thinking of puréeing the whole beans in a blender the next time I make them as it's less time-consuming. It may turn out to be a bit like the Japanese anko with the shells in it
  4. Melt lard and heat it till hot in a wok, stir-fry 1/4-1/3 of the sugar till melted. Then, add in the bean paste and stir-fry--mixing in the remaining sugar little by little till incorporated. Continue stir-frying till the paste becomes thick and can stand in peaks
  5. Let the paste cool aside till ready to use. For the extra, freeze and thaw for later use accordingly.


youfei said...

I finally made the red bean paste! I tried blending it and it ended up like SUPER dry? Like the machine couldn't move. haha! Luckily I haven't toss the red bean "soup" that I used to boil the beans and I added a little by little till i got a smooth paste. and guess what? even the skin got blended in smooth!

Funny thing is, the paste i made was ALOT lighter in colour than yours. Any idea why?

Not done with the pancakes yet. Probably tmr. too lazy heh =p

Pei-Lin said...

Mmm ... It's been a while since I last made the bean paste. But, thanks for letting me know about the dryness of the paste. I'll reserve the "soup" the next time around. And, I'm glad to hear that the skin could be blended into the paste! That means LESS WORK lol!

It should turn into a darker color when it was stir-fried for a while, especially towards the end of the cooking process. Mine was really dark though. I wonder why ... How did you do the cooking part?

tastestopping said...

I have to admit that even thinking about this takes me out of my comfort zone (where dessert=ice cream!). But it's a fascinating history you've given, and makes me want to try it.

I found you on TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


Jo said...

Hi Pei-Lin, I love Shanghainese pancakes, especially freshly made ones with crispy topping. I'm amazed that you make your own, including the filling as I haven't tried this one yet.

Pei-Lin said...

@tastestopping: Thanks for dropping by and the invitation! Haha ... I understand what you meant. After living as a student in the U.S. for a while, I've seen how my American friends reacted when I made Asian desserts for them. They were sort of turned off by the fact that our desserts can be runny soup-based desserts & WAY less sweet LOL!

@Jo: Hey there! Thanks for dropping by! YES! YES! Freshly made Shanghainese pancakes are at their best MAN!!! You've got to give this recipe a try! And, homemade red bean paste is definitely unbeatable ... you can control the sweetness and the red bean flavor is definitely there! Gotta give it a try! Trust me! You won't be disappointed!

Matijs van Zuijlen said...

This was my favourite dessert when I was a child, and it was served by only one chinese restaurant here in Amsterdam.

The restaurant closed, and I didn't eat or even see this dish for more than 20 years until I found it again during my too-brief stay in Malaysia last year.

Now I'm researching sweet potato recipes, and just one click away I find this recipe. What a wonderful surprise!

Dodol & Mochi said...

Greetings from Malaysia!

Hi, Matijs! First of all, thank you so much for stopping by! Yup, I totally can understand what you meant ... That's the greatest part of blog hopping--it leads you to places unplanned ... oftentimes, ended up with wonderful surprises! We're learning from one another! What a fun!

What!? Only one Chinese restaurant served this dessert in the entire Amsterdam!? Nice to hear that you got to see this dessert again during your brief stay here! Did you get to try some though?

With a recipe now, you can replicate this amazing dessert in your own kitchen! Boy, I'm happy and excited for you! As long as you can gather all the ingredients needed, you're set to go!

Cheers, and happy cooking/baking!

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