Guobing: The giant Chinese pancake that’s three times the size of your face

Nov 13, 2020

Guobing literally means ‘pot biscuit’ because it resembles the mouth of a giant pot.

In northern China, there is a type of bread that’s three times the size of your face.

Guobing 锅饼 is a wheat product made with fermented dough. It’s a specialty of Shandong Province, where people have been eating it as a snack for over 100 years.

The name literally means “pot biscuit” because it resembles the mouth of a giant pot. One guobing can stretch up to 15 inches in diameter and weigh over 6 pounds.

A guobing consists of many layers of dough.
A guobing consists of many layers of dough. / Photo: Frentee Ji

Slicing a guobing will reveal a plethora of layers, which are formed by stacking sheets of dough on top of each other. The outer layer is crispy, while the inner layers are chewy, offering a sensational textural contrast.

(Read more: What is a wife cake, and where does the name come from?)

Because it’s made with fermented dough, one guobing can last for a long time. “Store it for three days in June, and it won’t go bad,” says Li Zhifen, a guobing maker in Shandong. “Store it for a month during winter, and it won’t go bad.”

Locals have a number of ways to eat it. The bread is often sold in slices, which are then toasted, paired with soup, or eaten on their own.

Guobing is usually sold in slices.
Guobing is usually sold in slices. / Photo: Frentee Ji

A guobing is very filling and can feed a big family for several meals, locals say. Sometimes, they’re presented as gifts on special occasions, such as weddings.

The recipe for guobing is simple enough. Water and flour are combined with fermented dough to make fresh dough.

But the technique involved is tricky. The dough is flattened into thin sheets. The sheets are then brushed with oil and then folded and stacked on top of each other to form the guobing’s signature layers.

(Read more: A scallion pancake recipe even a kid can follow)

The whole thing is then wrapped inside a larger sheet of dough, like a gift bag, and then flattened into a large pancake.

Another variation of guobing involves flattening the dough into large rectangles.

That version, known as chaopai 朝牌, is named after bamboo tablets that court officials would use to take notes during meetings with the emperor.

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Producer: Jessica Novia

Videographer: Frentee Ji

Script and Narration: Tiffany Ip

Editor: Nicholas Ko

Mastering: Joel Roche