Garlic chive pockets 韭菜餅, and memories of a TV set made of a heart rate monitor

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Garlic chive pockets 韭菜餅

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by my cousin Yang’s skills in making dumpling wrappers.

Yang was the eldest daughter of my 2nd aunt. My aunt joined the army and met her husband in Northern China. They settled there for over 10 years before moving back to GuangZhou and re-trained as experts for mending medical equipment. My aunt made our first TV set out of an abandoned heart-rate monitor. It was the only TV set in the neighborhood. I still remember watching a green and grey version of the ‘Sound of the Music’ on the 3-inch diameter screen. It didn’t have a protective case in the back – we could see all the wires and connections. My grandfather put all his newspapers next to it. One time,  grandfather asked me to fetch him an old paper. I climbed up the drawers under the TV and reached for the paper.  I felt someone hit me with a stick from behind. I turned and looked, my grandfather was sitting at his desk working on something, and there was no one else in the room. I was zapped by electricity from the TV set!

Cousins from GuangZhou
A rare photo of the cousins in early 70s. Clockwise from top left, Yong, Zhi, Yang, Jie, myself

Anyway, Yang was a true master of the rolling pin from a young age – she could make hundreds of wrappers in no time at all. Her fingers were magic and I used to watch her whenever I had the opportunity. Their apartment always smelt of noodles, dumplings and aged vinegar… yum!

Being a ‘southerner’, my rolling pin skills are lacking – I am just too slow. To get around my deficiency, I discovered that my Italian pasta machine can produce wheat based wrappers rather efficiently. The trick is to first roll a small amount of dough into a ball, then press it to a round disc, and put it through the pasta machine a few times rotating each time. To show off my newly developed ‘skills’, I made these northern style garlic chive pancakes with eggs, Chinese mushrooms  and shrimp shell.  The traditional pancake uses heaps of garlic chive and has as a very strong taste. In this recipe, I used smaller amount of garlic chive and added chicken and mung bean vermicelli for extra texture and flavor.

Recipe is as follow:

Ingredients – dough

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2.5 cup plain flour
  • more flour for dusting
  • a few pinches of salt

Ingredients – filling

  • 100g garlic chive, remove the tough ends, washed, chopped to 0.5cm length
  • 100g chicken fillet, finely diced
  • 3 eggs, scrambled and diced
  • 25g Chinese mushrooms, soak in hot water for 1 hour, remove steams, squeeze out excess liquid,  finely diced
  • 10g shrimp shell  (picture below)
  • 50g mung bean vermicelli, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes; drained, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • cooking oil


  • Mix flour, salt and warm water and knead into a dough; cover and rest for 30 minutes or until the dough is completely cooled.
  • In a frying pan, bring some cooking oil to medium heat; add chicken, Chinese mushroom and saute until the chicken is nearly cooked; add shrimp shell, cook for a few more minutes; add oyster sauce, sesame oil, mung bean vermicelli and egg pieces, combine well; remove the frying pan from heat, add garlic chive, salt and white pepper to taste, mix well; transfer filling to a plate to cool.
  • Roll the dough to a long log, divide the log into 10 pieces; roll each piece into a ball with the palms of your hands, then press it down as a round disc; roll the disc into a round wrapper with a rolling pin (or use a pasta machine like I did, run the disc through the machine a few times, rotate 90 degree each time).
  • Spoon a couple tablespoon of filling onto the wrapper; brush a little water on the edge of half of the wrapper; close the edge tightly to form a half moon pancake; repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
  • Brush each pancake with cooking oil.
  • In a frying pan, bring plenty of cooking oil to medium heat; pan fry a few pancakes over one layer until golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes;  use a lid to keep the moisture in and speed up the cooking process.
  • Serve warm with chili sauce (optional).








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