This Thai basil pancake (九層塔抓饼 jiǔ céng tǎ Zhua bing) has an amazing flaky texture and is so aromatic. This recipe is so simple and uses a few pantry ingredients.
Right after I shared my Cong Zhua Bing (Hand grasp scallion pancake), my mom reminded me that she loves the Thai basil version and asked me to recreate one when I can. So, this recipe is to grant her wish.
Similar to the scallion pancake method, I’m combining my roti canai (roti paratha) and my scallion bread recipes but replacing the filling with Thai basil. The result is a delicious and flavorful pancake that is perfect for any meal of the day!
How to make Thai basil pancake (Zhua Bing)
1. Prepare the dough
Prepare the dough. Combine all-purpose flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Now, fit the mixer with a dough hook. At low speed, gradually add in the water and knead until a smooth dough forms, about 6 to 8 minutes. (If there are still dry spots of flour after 2 to 3 minutes of mixing, add some water, 1 tablespoon at a time.)
Transfer the dough to a dusted work surface and knead to remove air bubbles.
Divide into 4 equal portions and roll into a ball. Grease an 8-inch cake pan with 2 tablespoons of oil. Coat each ball generously with the oil. Cover and rest for at least 30 minutes.
2. Make the Thai basil mixture
Next, pinch off basil leaves from the stems. Clean with water and pat dry with paper towels. Chop them into smaller pieces to release their aroma and transfer them to a mixing bowl.
Then, heat the oil in a small saucepan to about 300F (test the temperature using a wooden chopstick by inserting it into the oil. Once you see small bubbles around the tip of the wooden chopstick, the oil is ready).
While the oil is heating, add the sugar, salt, Chinese 5-spice powder, and flour to the chopped Thai basil. Once the oil is heated, carefully pour it into the mixture and stir to combine. Divide into 4 portions.
3. How to assemble
To make the zhua bing, uncover the dough. You should have excess oil in the cake pan. Pour this onto a work surface and rub it to cover as much space as you can.
Place dough on the surface. Using your fingers or a rolling pin, press or roll the dough into a thin large rectangle, 7″x 12″. Since this is an oiled dough, it’s actually quite easy to create a large sheet using the press and push method. See pictures below. Note: Dab your palm with oil if the dough is too dry.
Using your fingers spread a generous portion of Thai basil mixture on the dough, making sure all areas are covered with it. This step is crucial to create the flaky layers later.
Now, using the fan folding method to create a long belt, fold it all to the top, leaving about 1-inch. Flip this last fold over the dough to seal and press to adhere. Pinch and seal the two ends.
Then, hold the two ends, lift up the dough, and slap on the work surface with a gentle pull to thin out the dough more. This is an optional step. Take one end and roll it into a disk and secure the dough by tucking the other end under the dough. Rest for at least 15 minutes while you work on other dough.
4. Cook the Thai basil pancake (Zhua Bing)
Heat an iron skillet over medium heat. Pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
Before you add the dough to the pan, gently press it down with your palm to a 5-inch/6-inch circle. Cover the skillet with a pan, turn down the heat to medium-low and cook until it turns golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature. If it browns too quickly, adjusts the heat down.
Uncover, brush another layer of oil on top of the pancake before flipping it. Cook this side for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
When ready, transfer the pancake to a work surface. Let it cool down a little, then clap the pancake with both of your palms a few times. This step is to create a more defined layer. It actually makes them taste better. The trick is to clap it when the pancake is still warm.
Note: Clap your palms, then pat your palms on the surface to cool down your palm before repeating the move. Serve warm with a side of chile sauce.
Thai basil pancake (Zhua Bing) Cooking Tips
1. Do not skimp on the roux – While you can create the roux separately by combining the flour and oil in a bowl, I mixed it together with the chopped Thai basil and seasoning to save time. This filling is much needed to create flaky layers.
2. Oil – Before you roll out the rested dough, either with your palm or rolling pin, be sure to coat the utensil or palm with oil. When pan-frying, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Brush a thin layer of oil on the top of the pancake before flipping it.
3. Temperature – Just like a lot of the recipes, you need to keep an eye on the heat when pan-frying these pancakes. Start with high temperature to heat the skillet, and once you add the pancake, turn to medium-low. The goal is to create a golden outer layer and it’s fully cooked through inside. If it browns too quickly, adjusts the heat down. Flip a few times if needed to ensure the pancake is thoroughly cooked from the inside out.
4. Storage tips – Please check the Scallion pancake Cooking tips section
This Thai basil pancake (Zhua Bing) is
- a combination of the roti canai (roti paratha) and baked scallion bread recipe
- a great make ahead meals – check storage tips above
- flaky with delicious crispy layers
- Easy to make
- perfect when you need to use up your herbs – try scallions or other herbs
- Vegan and dairy-free
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Thai basil pancake 九層塔抓饼
- 240 g all-purpose plain flour
- 150 ml water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder optional
- oil for cooking and greasing
Thai Basil Mixture
- 2 cup Thai basil leaves [~45g] chopped
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose plain flour
- 1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup oil
Prepare the dough
- Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder (if using) in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Fit the mixer with a dough hook and mix the dry ingredients at medium-low speed to combine.
- While the mixer is running, pour in the water and continue to knead the dough until a dough forms. (If there are still dry spots of flour after 2 to 3 minutes of mixing, add some water, 1 tablespoon at a time.)
- Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead it into a smooth dough.
- Then, divide it into 4 pieces. Knead each piece by hand to remove air bubbles and roll them into a ball.
- Add 1½ tablespoons of oil in an 8″ non-stick cake pan or similar size pan. Then, place the dough in the pan and coat it generously with oil, making sure to cover all the surfaces.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge.
Prepare the Thai basil Mixture
- During the last few minutes of dough resting, prepare the Thai basil mixture.
- In the bowl of Thai basil leaves, add the flour, 5-spice powder, salt, and sugar.
- Next, fill a small saucepan with ¼ cup of oil and turn on the heat.
- Once the oil is heated to 350F, remove it from the heat and carefully pour it into the Thai basil bowl.
- Using a spatula, quickly stir the mixture until well-combined. The basil will release its moisture and will turn slightly dark and wet in a few minutes. Divide
Assemble the bing
- Uncover the dough balls, and pour the excess oil in the pan onto a work surface.
- Work with one dough at a time, flatten it with your palm. Grease a rolling pin or your fingers and roll or stretch the dough into a thin rectangle (about 12″X7″).
- Spread a generous layer of basil mixture on the stretched dough. Lightly press to adhere.
- Using the fan folding method, fold the dough in layers and stop when you have 1-inch of dough left.
- For this last part, instead of folding in, bring the top layer and fold down like how you seal an envelope. Press the dough gently to adhere to the fillings.
- Now, hold both ends and lift it up then slap to the surface while stretching it to make the dough thinner (this is an optional step).
- To finish it up, roll the dough into a coil-like and tuck one end to the bottom of the dough. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes and move on to the rest of the dough.
Cook the bing
- When ready, heat a cast-iron or non-stick pan with a thin layer of oil. Then, lightly grease your fingers and work surface.
- Flatten the coil-like dough with your palm into a larger circular dough, about 5″-6″ in diameter or 1cm thick.
- Transfer the dough to the pan. Using your fingers, spread the dough out slightly to flatten it.
- Cover the pan with a lid and pan-fry it until golden brown about 2-3 minutes over medium-low heat. Peek occasionally and adjust the heat if needed.
- Uncover, and brush a layer of oil on the top of the bing before flipping over. Then, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden.
How to serve
- Once both sides of the bing are crispy and golden, transfer it to a chopping board.
- While it is still warm, clap the bing with both of your palms to fluff it up. Please note, the bing is still hot, so be extra careful or you can serve it warm as-is. The texture will be slightly less fluffy without the clap but does not affect the taste.