Next week the stars are aligning in a very special way, as Chinese New Year and Pancake Day coincide. Fortunately, good old Simon Rimmer has foreseen this event and prepared a dish that covers both occasions in one happy union. Since I first moved to Asia in 2007 I’ve had a great fondness for Chinese New Year. Of course, this is partly because of the public holidays, but it’s also a genuinely lovely celebration. Locals feel about it the same way as I feel about Christmas, and I adore the pretty little trees, the communal spirit and the general excitement and optimism. And of course I love Pancake Day because pancakes are yummy.
I’ll be spending the holiday in Thailand, frolicking with elephants and cooking up a spicy storm. Hopefully I’ll manage to find some pancakes over there, but I’m getting these ones in early. They do need some ingredients that might warrant a trip to Chinatown (for those readers not living in Hong Kong), but they’re worth the effort.
Chinese Mushroom Pancakes
Serves 6 as starter, 3 as main, from Simon Rimmer’s The Accidental Vegetarian
100g plain flour
100g five spice powder
18 Chinese pancakes
400g oyster mushrooms
1 cucumber, cut into batons
6-8 spring onions, finely sliced
vegetable oil, for frying
For the plum sauce:
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
splash of dry sherry
450g plums, halved and stoned
1. To make the sauce, fry the shallots in a little oil for about 5 minutes until soft.
2. Add the garlic and sherry and let it bubble for about 1 minute until slightly reduced.
3. Add the plums and cook over medium-high heat until they begin to go mushy (it takes about 10 minutes with some vigorous stirring).
4. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Pass through a sieve into a bowl – use your spoon to help push the mixture through.
6. Mix the flour and five spice together with some seasoning.
7. Toss the mushrooms in the mix to coat well, and shake off any excess.
8. Heat some oil in a large pan and deep fry the mushrooms in batches for about 3 minutes until crisp and brown.
9. Drain on kitchen paper.
10. Warm the pancakes, either in a microwave for 20 seconds or in a steamer over simmering water for 1 minute, and prepare the cucumber and spring onions to serve.
11. Serve up: spread plum sauce on a pancake, lay a strip of mushrooms down the middle, top with onion and cucumber, then roll up.