Seven years of frying: Tibetan shapale

Regular readers will have noticed that we tend to follow a rough geographical order when making our international recipes, so would rightly be slightly confused by the fact that we’ve now jumped from Bermuda to Tibet. This is because when we started this project, our list of countries followed a rule whereby each country bordered the countries on either side of it on the list, but there was no way to take this linear approach and also include all the countries – so we have a separate list of ‘leftover’ countries. Now that we’ve reached the Caribbean islands (of which there are a lot, and if the Pacific Islands are anything to go by, they’re all likely to offer up quite similar foods), we thought we’d intersperse them with those leftover countries. So: Tibet.

Deciding on a Tibetan dish took a surprisingly long time, largely because we ruled out anything involving yak meat (hard to find in London), tea with butter (just why?) or dumplings (not because we have anything against dumplings, just because we’ve made them in a number of forms so far and wanted to try something different). Finally we happened upon the YoWangdu website, which promised us ‘the joys of Tibetan culture’ through a recipe for shapale, or fried meat pie. The combination of ‘fried’, ‘meat’ and ‘pie’ meant Ash was instantly sold, and Miranda was also happy to give it a try!

Shapale

Ingredients
For the dough:
4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups cold water

For the filling:
450g beef mince
1 cup chopped baby bok choy
1/6 cup minced ginger
1/8 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1/4 cup chopped spring onion
2/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tbsp Bovril
1/4 tbsp Szechuan pepper, crushed

Oil, for frying

Method
1. Two hours before cooking, mix the flour and water to form a ball of dough. Knead for at least 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and flexible (you can use a mixer with a dough hook attachment for this). Place dough in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and let rest for at least 2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling by mixing all of the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.
3. When the dough is ready, roll it out to approximately 1/8 inch thickness. Use an 8 inch cutter to cut out circles and lay them out flat on a floured surface – they’ll stick together if they’re touching.
4. To make the shapale (which we found best to do just before cooking to avoid them sticking to whatever they were sitting on), place a tablespoon of filling onto one of the dough circles, then place a second circle of dough on top.
5. Pinch the edges together very firmly and, ideally without tearing the dough (it’s not a total disaster if it does tear, but if it does, try to patch it up), flatten the shapale as much as possible – it will cook much better the flatter it is.
6. Crimp the edges of the shapale with as much artistic flair as you can be bothered with, or, alternatively, just press them down with a fork.
7. Here’s where it starts to take ages: our advice would be to use the biggest frying pan you own. Heat 2 tbsp oil in the pan until the oil is very hot, then place one layer of shapale in the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook until golden-brown on both sides and the meat inside is cooked, turning frequently – about 12-14 minutes.
8. If making large quantities, keep the cooked shapale in a low oven while you make the rest.
Makes about 18, which will feed 4-5

866a Mixing shapale dough compressed

869a Shapale filling compressed

870a Dough rounds compressed

871a Shapale assembly compressed

872a Frying shapale compressed

875a Shapale compressed

876a Salad compressed

877a Shapale and salad compressed

We served our shapale with a simple sliced salad of red onion, radish, tomato, cucumber, bok choy and celery, but you could use any sort of salad. The website suggested dipping sauces of either lime pickle mixed with soy sauce or Tibetan hot sauce, but we just ate them as they were. And how were they? Well, they were pretty tasty! Making them took forever through only being able to cook a few at a time, and as a result we probably won’t do it again, but they were certainly a new experience for us, and the filling had a fantastic flavour, so we would potentially use it in a different dish (lettuce wraps, for example). It was also interesting to note how well the simple flour-and-water dough worked: we learnt on a recent visit to Hampton Court Palace that in Tudor times they would use flour-and-water pastry to form cooking vessels rather than seeing it as something to be eaten, so clearly they were missing out! The leftover shapale worked well cold for lunch the following day, too. So all in all, a happy detour from Caribbean food – to which we will return next time!

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