Chinese food for breakfast? Definitely! I can tell you for a fact that breakfast in Asian countries are so much more interesting than toast and cereal! And so much more delicious!!
Though I was raised in Australia, all my relatives are in Tokyo. Every time I visit them, even though I am on holidays, I find myself bounding out of bed when the sun rises in anticipation of the mini-dinner buffet that is considered breakfast in Japan. Rice, miso soup, salads, grilled marinated fish, pickled vegetables, savoury rice porridge, sashimi (YES, sashimi!)….the list goes on and on. There really is no better way to describe it than as a mini-dinner buffet for breakfast. (Just to clarify, you might not get a 10 dish spread in every household, but standard fare would be to have rice plus a couple of side dishes).
“Breakfasts in Asian countries are so much more interesting than cereal and toast!”
It’s not standard throughout Asia to have dinner-for-breakfast buffets, but toast and cereal definitely are not standard breakfasts! In Thailand there’s rice in a delicately fragrant broth laced with coriander, in Indonesia (Bali) there’s Burbur Ayam which is a traditional breakfast rice porridge with shredded chicken. In Thailand there are street carts from early in the morning selling Khao Neow Moo Ping which is grilled pork skewers served with sticky rice. In Nepal there is roti which is a thin pan fried bread usually served with a vegetable curry to dip it in.
And though I did not come across Zucchini Pancakes when I travelled in China, when I saw this recipe for breakfast pancakes on one of my favourite Asian food blogs, China Sichuan Food by Elaine, I knew I had to try it.
“I’ve also used this recipe to make bite size fritters to pass around as a starter.”
For one thing, from reading the short list of ingredients I knew straight away that it was a winning flavour combination. It’s delicately flavoured with a touch of Chinese Five Spice powder (which you can get at supermarkets in the dried herbs and spices section and is no more expensive than a regular pack of dried basil) and has a simple dipping sauce which goes with it perfectly.
The other thing I really like about this recipe is that rather than sweating the zucchini and squeezing out the excess water, the batter is set aside for 15 minutes to allow the zucchini to sweat and it is this water that turns the batter from an otherwise very thick batter to a pancake consistency. Easier than the usual method of sprinkling salt over the grated zucchini, letting it sweat then squeezing out the water then making the batter!
I’ve also used this same recipe to make fritter size pancakes to serve as a starter. They are fantastic to pass around with the dipping sauce on the side! When I make it as a starter, I usually add a generous dollop of chili into the sauce.
And when you get a chance, pop by China Sichuan Food and have a browse around for fantastic authentic Chinese recipes, so much more than the usual Chow Meins and Hokkien Noodles. I love that she makes dishes I have at Chinese restaurants so accessible for ordinary folk like me to make at home!
Let’s make something interesting for breakfast this weekend! – Nagi
- 1 large zucchini, grated (1½ cups, not packed in)
- 3 shallots / scallions, thinly sliced (about ¾ cup)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice (note 1)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp vegetable or other cooking oil
- 2 tsp Chinese black vinegar (note 2)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp chili paste or sauce (optional - see note 3)
- Extra sliced shallots / scallions
- Use a cheese grater and grate the zucchini straight into a medium size bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. Don't mix too much, just until it is just combined because otherwise you will overwork the flour and the pancake will be tough and hard. The batter will be quite thick, thicker than you expect. It will thin out in the next step.
- Set aside for 15 minutes. During this time the zucchini will sweat water. Give the batter a quick stir to mix the water in.
- While the batter is set aside, combine the Dipping Sauce ingredients in a small bowl then set aside.
- Heat oil in a large heavy based fry pan over medium high heat.
- Scoop up ½ cup (levelled) of batter and place in the pan. Use the bottom of the cup measure (or a spoon) to pat/spread the batter to make a circle that is roughly 12cm / 5 inches in diameter. Repeat with remaining batter (or cook in batches of 2 if your fry pan is not large enough).
- Cook each side for 1½ minutes until golden brown.
- Serve immediately, scattered with extra shallots/scallions with the dipping sauce on the side.
2. Chinese black vinegar is sold at Asian grocery stores and is very cheap, usually $2 - $3 for a large bottle. If you can't find it, you can substitute with 1 tsp of malt (brown) vinegar or balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar (which you can get at supermarkets or Asian grocery stores).
3. Use any chili paste or sauce you want/have to add a bit of heat. I use a Chinese chili paste which is like crushed dried chili in chili oil. I got this from an Asian grocery store for a couple of dollars. But often I just add a squirt of sriracha because I always have it on hand.
4. These are best served immediately. If you cool then reheat them in the oven, do so on a rack (so the bottom doesn't go soggy). But like any pancake, I find they are best served fresh.