Xinjiang Potatoes and a Twist on Rou Jia Mo

While we were in China and Xian in particular, we spent a night in a particular famous night market in the Muslim Quarter  It was simultaneously fascinating and singularly unpleasant.  Food is everywhere, it all looks delicious and it’s damn cheap.  The problem is the scooters, the hammering of candy purveyors and the incessant yelling of hawkers.  We stood in line at what looked to be a popular rou jia mo (a.k.a. Chinese hamburger) establishment which appeared to have at least half its staff devoted to horseplay and being loud and annoying.

Also there are only a handful of food items in the market, but there are half a dozen different establishments for each one.  This led us astray once as we went to the “wrong” liang fen restaurant as it had a nearly identical name and sign to the well rated restaurant for the dish.  They served nearly inedible bowl of noodles.  Thankfully, we found the right one and gave the dish a second try and it was glorious.  This place had the best chili paste of the trip, in case you need some more oily chili sauce to go on your oily, sesame paste noodles.

The aforementioned rou jia mo place was frankly mediocre despite the popularity.  The buns were dry and dense and the meat was nearly unseasoned lamb with an indiscernible dash of chili paste.  It was a huge disappointment considering how I had built it up.  I suspect better ones exist, but the old adage of following the lines certainly served us wrong here.

One highlight of the evening were some fried new potatoes in what I will call Muslim spices.  The creamy interior from frying played very well with the well balanced spice mix on the exterior.  Simple and delicious, I loved it.

Thus we come to this post.  I wanted to improve on our Chinese hamburger by making a Western hamburger with some Chinese influence and then roast potatoes in a similar spice mix to that we had with the fried potatoes.  So here is the game plan.

For the rou jia mo I am riffing on Daniel’s Sichuan burger.  An english muffins sounds like it is similar to the dense mantou of a rou jia mo while being much better in my mind.  I am also serving up some homemade chili paste with it (recipe below).  I am going to alter the flavorings a bit:

1 Tbsp of light and dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp of sesame oil
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, preferably Thai
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon of coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1 small star anise pod
4 cloves
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp of light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of table salt

Mix this in right before cooking (otherwise salt may change texture of beef) by your preferred method.  I am going to try to deep fry mine.

Homemade Chili Paste (adapted significantly from Charles Phan’s recipe)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup of mild chili flakes (kochukaru for instance)
6-8 cloves of garlic smashed
1 Tbsp of ginger peeled and julienned
1/2 cup of shallots thinly sliced
4 Tbsp of yellow bean paste
1 Tbsp of doubanjiang
1 Tbsp of black beans (I use Lao Gan Ma)
1 Tbsp of sesame oil
1 Tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

Combine all but the last three ingredients in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Bring to a light simmer and maintain simmer for 25-30 minutes such that nothing is burning.  Mix in last 3 ingredients and cook for 1 more minute.  Let cool and then blend paste or smash garlic, shallots and ginger as best you can.  Store in fridge.

Lastly are the potatoes.  I am using the best roasted potato recipe ever.  Though I admit it took too long for Kenji to come to the baking soda rather than vinegar camp for potatoes.  I am going to toss the potatoes in the following prior to the roasting step and hope they don’t burn.

2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes, preferably Thai
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 Tbsp fennel/star anise
1/2 tsp of ground garlic
1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1 Tbsp of light brown sugar




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