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A THOUSAND WORDS: Making Xian bing, a popular street food in China

You know I love words but they say a picture is worth a thousand, so here's a photo essay about making Xian Bing, a flaky meat pie I tried in Xi'an, China, after watching each one stretched, filled, rolled and cooked on the street in the Muslim food market.

Xian Bing is classic Chinese street food, savoury pastries filled with vegetable and meat. (Cinda Chavich photos)


These meat pies are rolled and grilled on the street in the food market in Xi'an, China. The thin stretchy dough is wrapped around a filling of ground meat (lamb or beef) with lots of chopped green onions, then flattened into a thick pancake that's fried on a hot griddle until golden brown. Here's how:

The soft dough is stretched into long rectangles and rubbed with oil to begin the process of making the stuffed pastries.

Adding ground meat and green onion filling to Chinese meat pies before rolling
The dough is topped with a pile of ground meat and chopped green onion filling at one end, before being rolled to enclose the ingredients in a tight oblong bundle.

Stretching the dough around the Xian Bing filling as they are rolled, creates flakey layers in the pastry.
The trick to getting all of those flaky pastry layers is stretching the dough thin as you wrap the cocoon-like bundles.

Cooks form the Xian Bing into rolls, then flatten them into pancakes.
The egg-shaped rolls are then upended and pressed down to form a thick flat pancake.

Starting to brown the Xian Bing in a hot griddle pan.
The bing go into a heavy griddle pan to be shallow fried until they are cooked through and browned on both sides.

More Xian Bing are filled and rolled by one cook, as a second fries them to order for hungry customers.

The meat pies are slowly cooked on a hot griddle until nicely browned on each side and cooked through.

Xian Bing, hand made, hot and ready for sale.

Food markets are always a great place for me to take pictures, but I can never resist trying delicious street food like crispy, flaky Xian Bing

Takeaway Xian Bing, hot off the griddle. Dip in Chinese black vinegar, sesame and chili oil for extra zing!


Want to know more about making Xian Bing? I found these recipes online that approximate what I saw on the street in Xi'an. One is made with mushroom and shrimp filling, and uses the same filling and rolling technique, while the other uses beef, (the bing I tried in China was made with ground lamb), and a slightly different method for stuffing the bing, similar to making filled buns.

Click the links to their sites and learn how to create Xian Bing at home. Happy cooking!

Copyright Cinda Chavich photos


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