The Chen family – where my aunt got married into- used to have a courtyard near West Balizhuang. When I was about five or six years old, I used to spend a few summer days at the family’s courtyard, where my uncle and I would climb onto a Chinese mahogany (香椿xiangchun) tree in the backyard to pick up fresh xiangchun ya, sprouts for the dinner that night. (Xiangchun ya, the young leaves of the Chinese mahogany tree)
I used to dislike xiangchun for its bizarre herbal aroma, which smells like a fusion of garlic and diet Dr. Pepper. Another peeve was the lackluster method of cooking; chopping off some of the leaves and throwing them to the stir fry pan with eggs or not even cooking it at all. Compared with my grandma’s sophisticated braised pork belly recipe, the contrast made it seems unexciting.
Strange how people can become fond for the food they used to dislike as a child, and it just happened to me. Xiangchun gradually becomes a food that helps to hold my life in one piece, together with Cadbury’s chocolate powder, red bean paste( tang yuan) and Zaxby’s chicken tenders.
Every now and then, I’m stuffed with one of these foods then get into some unique state of tranquility and satisfaction. The smell of xiangchun always has me flashback to the old Chen family courtyard and the old xiangchun tree that I fell off more than once. Ouch! Perhaps it’s just the chemicals doing the work, or some basic neuron reaction to xiangchun sprouts’ bizarre smell and flavor that makes life worthwhile.
So here’s my recipe of xiangchun wraps. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the easiest ways to cook it (in fact there’s no “cooking” involved) and this can get the kids involved as well.
- Quanjude’s chunbing (order from Jingdong here), RMB 13 for 400g
- Quanjude’s hoisin sauce (order from Jingdong here), RMB 10 for 180g
- A handful of xiangchun sprouts where you can easily get from a local market. It pronounces xiāng chūn miáo and looks like the photo above.
- Eggs (2 per person)
- Other vegetables such as onions and peppers (if desired)
- Take out the chunbing pancakes and put them in a plate. Steam for five minutes or microwave for three minutes. If you are microwaving, spray some water onto the plate to keep the pancakes moist.
- Make some scrambled eggs. Make them more solid than breakfast scrambled eggs usually are by cooking longer (for two or three more minutes) to reduce the water content and make them bouncier otherwise they will make the pancake soggy.
- Wash the xiangchun sprouts
How to eat it:
- Scoop some scrambled eggs and fresh xiangchun sprouts and deep them into the hoisin sauce, then put it into a pancake and roll it up, exactly in the same way you roll up a Peking duck wrap.
- The doughy pancake will pull the eggs, xiangchun sprouts, and hoisin sauce together resulting in an irresistible taste, that’s when you know you are ready for another.
- Add additional vegetables if you wish.
Xiangchun chunbing wraps are perfect breakfast food, especially for kids as you can take them as burrito wraps with a Beijing twist. I’m sure your kids will remember what the xiangchun sprouts taste like twenty years later, no matter where they are, and memory of the taste of the sprouts will create flashbacks to the old Beijing city where they used to live, as they did with me.
Here are other recipes to try out.
Alternatively, the dish is served at a very reasonable price at Chunbing Jing Wei Cai. RMB 10 for the wraps, and RMB 20 for the eggs and xiangchun sprouts.
Chunbing Jingwei Cai Daily 10am-11pm. 153 Yonghegong Dajie (opposite Cafe de la Poste), Dongcheng District (6406 2183)春饼京味菜，东城区雍和宫大街153号
Photos: Baidu and Patrick Li