A simple pan-baked flatbread stuffed with spiced pork belly, fresh coriander and chilli, Chinese pork burger is tangy, flavourful, moist and extremely comforting.
A humble, tasty street food can be as memorable as a fancy restaurant meal. Since I came to Europe, I miss Chinese street food so much that I have made lots of effort to imitate them in my own kitchen. Chinese pork burger (Rou Jia Mo, 肉夹馍) is among my favourites. I serve it for regular dinners, but it also makes a very popular party dish.
Classic street food from Xi’an
Rou Jia Mo is one of the most well-known street food in China. It originates from the historic city of Xi’an (one of the destinations on my Culinary tours of China) but has become very popular throughout China.
Its name literally means “meat held by a flatbread” and the meat is usually braised pork belly. When I presented this dish to my non-Chinese friends, they automatically called it Chinese pork burger. Why not? They do resemble western-style hamburgers.
Braise the pork with lots of spices
First of all, let’s talk about the filling for my Chinese pork burger. It’s basically pork belly braised in water with a number of spices and sauces. Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredient list. They are what makes the meat super aromatic and flavoursome.
You can find most of them in mainstream supermarkets, and the rest in Chinese/Asian shops. I recommend that you use what I suggest. However, it won’t be a problem if you lack one or two spices to hand.
In terms of cooking the pork, it couldn’t be simpler. Just throw everything in a pot filled with water then leave to simmer. The cooked meat should be very tender and almost melt in your mouth.
Cook the bread in a frying pan
While waiting for the meat to cook, you can prepare the special flatbread (Bai Ji Mo, 白吉馍) used for Chinese pork burger. It’s made of leavened wheat-flour dough and traditionally baked in a clay or mud oven. It’s not as soft as western burger buns and has a rather chewy texture.
I love its plain, natural flavour and sometimes enjoy eating it on its own. Chinese home cooks often make this flatbread in an ordinary frying pan (without any oil). It’s super easy and takes only 10 minutes to cook.
Make the filling tangy and moist
Right before assembling the burger, take the meat out of the pot and put it onto a chopping board. Place a generous amount of fresh coriander and chilli alongside. Chop them into small pieces (but not finely minced). The last procedure is crucial: spoon some broth from the pot then pour on the meat. This will add extra flavour to the filling and make it moist.
Unlike western burger buns, the bread for Chinese pork burger is not cut through. You just cut it open from one side to make it a pocket, then spoon in the filling.
Know the principle then be creative
Now you know how to prepare a Chinese pork burger you are free to create your own version. Here are some alternative ideas:
- Use other braised meat as filling. Red-cooked pork belly is a perfect choice. If you fancy other meat, try my recipe of Spicy cumin lamb stir fry which is often used as a halal alternative. Spiced beef and potato stew works too. Skip the vegetables in the recipe and cook the beef a bit longer to a very tender texture.
- Pita bread can be a nice substitute if you don’t have time to cook the flatbread.
- Cook the flatbread half of the regular size (or even smaller if you wish), then assemble the burger as normal. This makes a great dish for finger-food parties.
Chinese pork burger (Rou Jia Mo 肉夹馍)
For the flatbread
- 250 g all-purpose flour, 2 cups
- 120 ml water, 8 tbsp
- 1 tsp dried instant yeast, see note 1
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cooking oil
For the meat
- 400 g pork belly, 14oz
- 5 slice ginger
- 2 stalk scallion, cut into sections
- 1 star-anise
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 piece cassia cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 cloves
- 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 4 dried chilli
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1/2 tbsp rock sugar, or granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
You also need
- 1 handful coriander
- 4 fresh chilli, or to taste
Prepare the dough
- Mix all the ingredients (including the oil). Knead with your hands or a stand mixer until a smooth, firm dough forms (see note 2).
- Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel then leave to rise until double in size (see note 3).
Braise the pork
- Blanch the pork in hot water then drain.
- Put the pork and all the other ingredients into a pot. Fill with water enough to cover the meat completely.
- Bring the water to a boil. Then leave to simmer for at least 1 hour until the meat becomes very tender.
Shape the bread
- Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Flatten one piece of dough into a long oval shape.
- Roll the dough into a cylinder. Stand the cylinder on one end.
- Press it down then flatten it with a rolling pin (about 10cm / 4 inches in diameter). Repeat the procedure to finish other pieces of dough
Cook the bread
- Place the dough into a frying pan over low heat (without any oil). Cover the pan with a lid.
- Flip the bread over when the first side becomes golden brown.
- Cook the second side with the lid on (see note 4).
Assemble the burger
- When the bread is cool enough to handle, slice open from one side (do not cut through).
- Chop the pork, coriander and chilli into small pieces. Pour some broth onto the chopped meat.
- Fill the bread with the meat.
Store & reheat
- If you don’t wish to serve the burgers right away, you can assemble them in advance then wrap each one tight in microwave-safe cling film.
- Reheat on full power for about 40 seconds in the microwave.
Hope you like this classic Chinese street food. Discover more mouth-watering recipes by clicking the links below.