Chop PHX: Olympic Meat Pies
This Week: Haicheng Beef Meat Pies from Chou's Kitchen (910 N Alma School Rd, Chandler)
The Basics: Imagine a delicious Chinese dumpling. Now imagine that the meat filling is the size of a hamburger patty and the whole thing is smashed flat and pan fried. The pan frying gives each bite of this mega-dumpling a slight crunch and satisfying chewiness. Somewhat shockingly, the filling is steeped in a light broth that floods your mouth with every bite. Mix soy sauce and chili paste into a dipping sauce if you so desire.
You get three of these heavenly meat pies with each order, it's amazing.
A word of caution, though. We have bisected the pies above to give you an idea what the filling looks like but DO NOT do this to your own pies. The broth that accumulates inside is an integral part of the eating experience, one that is lost if you hack your pie apart like a savage.
Why Haicheng meat pies aren't a household name, yet.
Why meat pies aren't on the Panda Express menu: Amid the endless parade of "New York Style" Chinese restaurants in the Valley it is easy to forget that "Chinese food" refers to thousands of years of diverse, regional culinary traditions. Americanized Chinese food tends to focus on one or two traditions at most and tend to ignore some of the more obscure traditions such as the Haicheng meat pie.
Chou's Kitchen is a tiny restaurant, possibly the only one in the Valley that features northeastern Chinese cuisine. Owners Tong Rizzo and Ping Chou hail from the city of Haicheng in the Liaoning province of Northern China. Rizzo said that the people of this region are "dough people" and favor hearty foods like dumplings and meat pies to keep the cold at bay. Haicheng meat pies are so popular that they were prepared by the thousands and shipped to Beijing as a culinary emissary during the 2008 Olympics.
Rizzo said that the temperature of the water used when the dough dictates what dishes the dough is ultimately suited for. Dough made with hot water tends to be flatter but stronger and is therefore suited for forming dumplings. Cold water dough rises more when cooked and this makes it ideal for meat pies. Warm water dough strikes a balance between the two and is perfect for forming the flaky crust of scallion pancakes.