A popular street food from the historic city of Xi’an, spiced beef flatbread is crispy, flavourful and very comforting. A treat worth every bit of effort.
Once during dinner time in our Red House, we voted on our favourite homemade dishes. Everyone named his/her top three choices. Among 12 answers, one particular type of food proved to be very popular. It was flour based dishes with meaty filling, such as Jiaozi (dumplings), Baozi (stuffed buns), Roulong (Meat dragon), etc. Today I’d like to introduce a type of Chinese stuffed flatbread (the favourite food of my culinary fan No.1). The dough is filled with minced beef, spiced with Sichuan pepper and then fried in a pan. Crispy, flavourful and filling, it’s a treat worth every bit of effort.
Spiced beef flatbread (香酥牛肉饼) is a popular street food which originated in Xi’an, a historic city where the famous Terra Cotta Army was discovered. You can find the most scrumptious lamb or beef based dishes there thanks to its large Chinese Muslim community. My mum was born and raised in the heart of Xi’an. I used to go there during the summer holidays to visit my aunties and uncles. This experience gave me many opportunities to explore the hidden gems of street food in Xi’an. (By the way, I’m organizing a Culinary Tour of China in May 2018 and Xi’an is one of the cities to visit. Why not join me if you love delicious Chinese street food?)
Pan-fried stuffed flatbread has many versions across China: different fillings, divers seasoning and various methods to fold or seal the dough. What makes spiced beef flatbread stand out, in my opinion, is its tangy flavour created by freshly ground spice. My favourite spice for this dish is Sichuan pepper. The numbing sensation that it brings to your mouth makes this flatbread unique and unforgettable. For best results, please use freshly ground Sichuan pepper. Read my earlier post on how to grind it here.
If you are not used to the flavour of Sichuan pepper (it’s definitely a acquired taste), I’ve got good news for you. Through experiments, I found three other common spices which work very well for this recipe: Chinese five-spice powder, cumin powder or freshly ground black pepper. No matter which one you prefer using, the golden rules are: 1. Be generous with the spice. 2. Sprinkle it directly onto the dough instead of mixing it into the meat.
The dough used in spiced beef flatbread is the most basic one (flour + water), super easy to prepare. Just make sure you give it plenty of time to rest, otherwise it won’t become elastic enough to manipulate with your hands (you don’t need a rolling pin for this recipe). I brush some flour & oil mix on each dough to ensure the finished bread has clear layers. And it adds some flavour too. However, it’s acceptable if you wish to brush only some oil instead.
When it comes to frying, a good quality frying pan with a thick bottom works better as its temperature rises more slowly and it distributes heat more evenly than thin-bottomed ones.
That’s all I have to say. I guess you might find this recipe a bit intimidating (I know, it’s quite long compare to others). But don’t be discouraged, it’s actually not as difficult as it appears to be. Just follow the instructions step by step. I’m sure you will get the hang of it very quickly. And after tasting it, I’m certain you will want to make more.
Hope you find this post interesting. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any other questions. Happy cooking!
Another mouth-watering street food:
For those who love beef dishes: