Polished pan cake

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From a restaurant menu:

Comment by Charles Belov, who sent in the photograph:

The "polished pan cake" turned out to be a fried glutinous rice ball filled with red bean paste and partially covered in granulated sugar. Did not look particularly polished although it was tasty.

In making white rice, after removing the husk, bran, and germ, the grains are polished, but that's not what's being referred to here.  Rather, the Chinese says:

nuòmǐ jiānbing 糯米煎饼 ("glutinous rice pancake")

"Nuòmǐ 糯米" may be rendered as "sticky rice" or "(polished) glutinous rice" (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa), "in the sense of being glue-like or sticky, and not in the sense of containing gluten (which it does not)."  It has "very low amylose content, and is especially sticky when cooked."  (source)

"Jiānbǐng 煎饼" is a thin flatbread or fried pancake.

Glutinous rice, and flour made from it, is one of my favorite East Asian food products, as used in Japanese mochi (which, though usually eaten frozen surrounding ice cream, has become enormously popular in the West), Chinese tāngyuán 湯圓 ("sweet dumpling" with black sesame filling — so delicious, but be careful because the center can be extremely hot when just pulled out of the liquid in which they are boiled), and Korean injeolmi and songpyeon ("sweet rice cakes").  Glutinous rice is not the same as sushi rice, which is made by cooking Japanese short-grain rice, and is then seasoned with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and often with kombu (kelp).

I have found that desserts made with nuòmǐ 糯米 ("glutinous rice"), because they are so hauntingly delicious — both tactiley [mouth and throat feel] and gustatorily) are addictive, but, again, be careful, because they can gum up the works.

Selected readings


  1. Chas Belov said,

    February 21, 2022 @ 12:21 am

    ¡Thank you for the explanation!

  2. Chas Belov said,

    February 21, 2022 @ 2:02 am

    Actually, surprised to learn the Chinese uses jianbing as this item is completely and utterly different from the dish called jianbing in which an egg crepe is wrapped around a Chinese doughnut.

  3. Johannes Pong said,

    February 22, 2022 @ 3:06 am

    Jianbing is really the vaguest term ever. It just means pan-fried "pastry/cake".
    Bing refers to vastly different things from region to region, depending on context, from simple flatbreads to a Western style birthday cake, to a crêpe, to pancakes. 餅 just means glutinous rice cake (mochi) in Japanese, & Vietnamese bánh is any sort of food made from dough, even in noodle form.

    The concise definition of "egg crepe wrapped around a Chinese doughnut" you mentioned seems to just be a Tianjin thing, known mostly as Jianbing guozi, where they add youtiao (fried wheat dough sticks) as filling.

    Originating in Shandong, the batter & fillings of jianbing differ by region & by vendor. In northern China, the batter is made from corn, sorghum, millet, mung bean or black bean flour, while on the east coast it's usually a combination of wheat & mung bean flour. It used to be so coarse & hard it was just eaten dipped in a meat soup.

    Fillings vary as well, ranging from cilantro, scallions, Chinese sausage to shredded carrot, lettuce, grated radish, sweet potato, all sorts of pickles, & in slightly more westernised Shanghai—strips of crispy salty Western style bacon. Ratios of hoisin sauce & chilli paste also vary.

    My thoroughly Cantonese grandparents (living most of their life in GZ & HK) have never had anything remotely like a northern jianbing. If you ask them what 煎餅 (tsīn bEng) would be, they would just assume you're talking about some sort of simple pancake, & it could be made with anything, from glutinous rice flour to wheat flour, with anything from just scallions, to diced lotus root, lap cheung, grated potato or minced pork. Koreans drop the "bing" part & just call them "jeon" 煎

    In Japan, the same characters are read as senbei & they just mean those crispy oven-baked rice crackers usually brushed with soy sauce for that burnt, caramelised umami savoury flavour, sometimes wrapped with seaweed, now usually mass produced & served at any ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) with your tea as, & bought as souvenirs for people you don't particularly like.

    It seems like the northern style jianbing has taken the West by storm, & you can get it in London. LA/ NYC or down under. Not so much in HK. I'm sure they sell them in a neighbourhood somewhere with a lot of migrants from the north, but I've never gone out of my way to hunt down jianbing for breakfast. I've tried it in BJ, SH & Taipei before, but meh. Not my thing. It's just too dry for me in the morning. Give this Southerner congee or dim sum to start the day please.

  4. Johannes Pong said,

    February 22, 2022 @ 6:43 am

    Oh just Googled, yeah there's jianbing guozi available in Hong Kong.

    餜子 also has a fascinating etymology with it originally being just 果子 "fruit" & then being used to broadly to mean "snack" or "dessert"
    果 > 菓 / 粿 / 餜

    Kashi/ Gwaja 菓子 in Japanese just means snack, any of those aesthetically pleasing wa-gashi (Japanese snacks/ sweets) specifically designed for tea ceremony or han-gwa (traditional Korean sweets/ snacks).
    Koe [kwe] in Hokkien, also borrowed into Malaysian & Indonesian, refers to the aesthetically pleasing and intricate array of sweets/ snacks/ pastries of SE Asia.

    Kwetiao / kway teow 粿條, literally "rice cake strips" in Hokkien, means the flat fettuccine/tagliatelle shaped rice noodles of Fujian & SE Asia.

  5. Bessel Dekker said,

    February 23, 2022 @ 1:04 pm

    Makes me wonder, all of a sudden, where Indonesian "lontong" (packed rice, rather sticky) comes from. It's not in Russell Jones's "Loan-Words in Indonesian and Malay".

  6. Bessel Dekker said,

    February 23, 2022 @ 1:27 pm

    Incidentally, and the following is quite out of order, except associatively, but I can’t put it in the “-lah” entry of March 10, 2021:

    Carstairs Douglas, “Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy, with the principal variations of the Chang-Chew and Chin-Chew dialects” (1899) had an entry

    »lah, enclitic particle at the end of a sentence, especially of an indicative sentence; sometimes marks the completion of an action. «

  7. Chas Belov said,

    February 23, 2022 @ 6:25 pm

    @Johannes Pong, ¡thank you!

  8. Michael Watts said,

    February 26, 2022 @ 7:06 pm

    My understanding of 饼 was always just "it means round food".

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