Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Xian Bing - Chinese Meat Pies

I've never been much of a baker. When I cook, I usually just wing it for better or worse. I love the freedom of not being chained to a recipe and how everything that you I make is distinctly mine. So, when I look at the exact science of baking, I turn away and unfortunately leave whole realms of deliciousness off my culinary map. A little while ago, I was flipping through an old Chinese cook book and found a recipe for 馅饼 - Xian4 Bing3 - Haam5 Bing2 - Chinese Meat Pies. The thing that caught my eye with this recipe is that the dough only required two things: Flour and boiling water. Now understand, I am a huge fan of savory pies and when the opportunity to make one without a whole lot of trouble or ingredients, I sprang up and got to work at once.

Xian Bing - Chinese Meat Pies

-1.5 cups Flour
-0.75 cups Boiling Water
-1 Boiled Chicken Breast
-2 Scallions
-Oyster Sauce
-Cooking oil

First, we'll start with the filling of these delicious little meat pies. Chop up the boiled chicken and scallions and mix them together with some oyster sauce to taste. You can actually use whatever the hell you want for the filling, any type of meat, any type of sauce and seasonings. In fact,you don't even have to use meat at all. Be creative and do what you like! Just make sure that whatever you have has some moisture to it and a lot of flavor, otherwise, the pies will be dry and flavorless.

That's it for the filling. Easy, right? Time to make the dough.

First thing to do is to dust your work surface with some flour so that things won't get sticky later. Keep some flour on hand in case you need more later. Put your 1.5 cups of flour (I used whole grain all purpose flour) into a mixing bowl and mix in the boiling water. Since I have no fancy gadgets, I used my hands to form the dough into a ball and to knead it for a few minutes. I must warn you, the dough gets pretty sticky so cover your hands with a bit of flour before handling the dough.
Now that you've got yourself a nice ball of dough, divide it up into smaller sections. There's probably better ways to do this, but I rolled it out in the air into a long tube and cut them into 8 segments. Next, take one of the segments and flatten them out on your well floured work surface. Once again, I don't have fancy gadgets like rolling pins, so I just used my hand to crush the dough flat. Make sure the edges are very thin compared to the center part. Put a spoonful of the chicken filling and put it on the center of the flat dough. Don't put too much!

Close the package of dough by bringing the edges together like so...

Now, flip the thing upside down so the crushed edges are facing down and smash the entire thing with the palm of your hand. Don't do it too hard, or they'll be a chicken flavored explosion. The result should look like these lovely specimens:

Heat a pan with some oil and cook them on medium heat, flipping when needed until the pies are golden brown and delicious.

And that's it! These things are best when they're fresh, so eat them up quickly. I'm sure you won't have too much trouble with that.