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How to make Shanghainese red bean pancakes, a sweet and chewy treat

Red bean pancakes are a popular dessert, served primarily at restaurants specialising in Shanghainese cuisine. The pancake is like a thin crepe, but it is made with glutinous rice flour (and a little wheat flour), which makes the texture slightly stretchy.

Red bean paste is sold in cans, but it is usually too sweet so I prefer to make my own. I like to flavour it with dried tangerine peel, which comes in segments, often joined at the base. For this recipe, you need just one or two individual segments.

For the red bean paste, you can use lard instead of oil, but only if it's of a good quality and made without additives.

Ingredients for the pancakes.

2 Make the red bean paste. Rinse the azuki beans in a colander, then put them in a bowl with enough water to cover by about 3cm. Soak for several hours, or overnight. Drain the beans and rinse them, then put them in a saucepan with enough water to cover by about 2cm. Bring to the boil, then drain the beans and rinse with cool running water.

Put the beans back in the pan and add 750ml of fresh water. Rinse the dried tangerine peel segments, then place them in the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender (about 45 minutes). Remove the pieces of tangerine peel and when cool enough to handle, cut them into very fine slivers.

Cook the red beans to make a paste. Jonathan Wong

Depending on how smooth you like the red bean paste, you can crush the beans with a potato masher, puree them in a food processor, or put them through a food mill (which will also remove most of the skins). Put the crushed/pureed beans back into the pan and mix in the sugar and tangerine peel.

Simmer over a low flame until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the paste is thick and starting to stick to the pan. Taste the mixture and add more sugar, if needed. Remove from the flame and slowly mix the oil into the paste. Cool to room temperature.

3 Cook the pancakes. Place an 18cm skillet over a medium flame. Add a few drops of cooking oil, then use a paper towel to rub the oil into the pan to coat it very lightly. Stir the pancake batter so the ingredients are evenly mixed, then pour about 50ml into the hot skillet. Immediately tilt the skillet so the batter coats it evenly then place back on the flame.

Cook the pancake until the edges are starting to pull away.

Cook the pancake until the surface is matt and dry, and the edges are starting to pull away from the pan. Slide the pancake onto a plate (there is no need to cook the other side). Cook the rest of the pancakes in the same way, making sure to very lightly coat the pan with oil each time, and to stir the batter before pouring it into the skillet. This makes about 10 pancakes.

4 Place a pancake cooked-side up on a work surface. Mix the red bean paste to soften it, then spread some into a rectangle (about 14cm by 7cm, and 5mm thick) at the centre of the pancake. (If the red bean paste is too thick and tears the pancake, roll the mixture between two layers of cling film, then freeze it for about 10 min­utes. Peel off the cling film and cut the bean paste into rectangles. Place one rectangle at the centre of each pancake and proceed with the recipe.)

Fold the pancake over the red bean paste.

Fold the top and bottom of the pancake over the red bean paste, then fold the sides over so the filling is securely enclosed. (You won't need all the red bean paste. Pack the leftovers into an airtight container and store it in the fridge.)

5 Heat oil to a depth of about 5mm in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, place several of the pancakes seam side-down in the skillet. Fry until lightly browned, then flip them over and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels.

6 Cut the pancakes into several pieces, then dust lightly with icing sugar before serving.

After frying the stuffed pancakes, cut them into several pieces and serve.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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