Incredibly delicious, shapale — Tibetan “meat bread” — are hot, savory, juicy meat pies.1
Like momos, shapale (also written as shapaley or sha balep) are widely loved in the Tibetan community, and will be the first to go at any Tibetan potluck gathering. Some people in Central Tibet eat them for breakfast, but they are more typically served with lunch or dinner, often with a basic rutang soup. In Tibet, the most common meat would be yak meat, which is a bit leaner and stronger tasting than beef, but in exile you will usually find them made from beef or veggies. (You can learn to make the veggie ones from our Tibetan Home Cooking.) You won’t be sorry you went to the effort to make these!
For 6 people
- 8 cups all-purpose flour (no self-rising flour, baking powder or yeast)
- 3 cups of cold water (Don’t use warm or hot water. Water out of the tap is fine.)
- 2 pounds ground beef (We tend to use organic, grass fed beef or if that is not available we go for one of the lower fat normal varieties, though not the lowest fat, since you need some juiciness )
- 2 cups chopped baby bok choy. You can also use cabbage.
- 1/3 cup minced ginger
- 1/4 cup minced garlic
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 stalks green onion (1/2 cup chopped)
- 1 and 1/4 cup chopped onion (We use red onion.)
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of salt, or to your taste
- 1 tablespoon of beef bouillon
- 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (We had been using Canola until a kind YoWangdu blog reader named Yin made us aware that Canola is not considered very healthful anymore. We’ve been exploring different oils since then and now are trying sunflower oil for these purposes.)
Optional, but highly recommended:
1/2 tablespoon of emma or yerma. (Also called Szechuan pepper.) Don’t use more than the recommended amount, which will give you excellent flavor, as this spice is strong and will give you a numbing feeling if you use too much. (You can buy the spice from Amazon if you click on the image or the link, and we would get a small commission, but we have never used this particular store, so cannot particularly recommend them. Let us know if you do how it goes.)
Start two hours before cooking
- Mix flour and water, forming a ball
- Knead at least 5 minutes until dough is smooth and flexible
- Place dough in a dish with a lid, or cover with plastic, or put in a plastic bag.
- Let rest for 2 or more hours so that the dough will be softer when shaping the shapale.
- Ultimately you want the dough to be soft enough to roll out and to stick together when you pinch together the edges of each shapale, and hard enough to form a smooth ball and not to stick to the rolling surface. Don’t worry too much if your dough is too hard or too soft. If too soft you can add some more flour and/or put more flour on your rolling surface. If it’s too hard, you can add more water and reknead. You don’t have to let it sit another two hours in that case.
Roll out Dough
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thickness.
- Use an inverted glass or cut out circles (diameter of the circles is approximately 3.5 inches, or 8 centimeters.) Set the circles of dough aside.
- As you cut out the circles you will be left with the dough outside the circles. Pick it back up, form it into a ball and repeat rolling it out until you have nothing left.
- Note: Many Tibetans make the circles one by one by making a small ball of dough and then rolling out each one, but we’re lazy and we’re not good at rolling them out one by one, so we use the cup. You can see the rolling out method demonstrated in this video about making momos, which uses the same process for making the dough circles as we do for shapale.
Prepare the Filling
- Place the ground beef in a large mixing bowl. (We use a metal one.)
- Mince the ginger and garlic and add to the beef in the bowl.
- Chop the bok choy, cilantro, green onion, and onion and place in the mixing bowl.
- Add the soy sauce, salt, and bouillon to the bowl.
- Mix everything well. We use our hands to mix it but that’s up to you :-)
Fill and Shape the Shapale
- Place a heaping tablespoon or so of filling on one circle of dough, then place a second circle of dough on top of the first one.
- Pinch the edges flat together very firmly — going all around the circle. This is important as you don’t want the juices to run out.
- Then, start anywhere on the circle, fold over a small piece of the edge, and pinch it down, repeating this all around the circle. This results in a crimped, pretty edge.
- Keep the shapale you have finished on a lightly oiled flat dish or surface, to avoid the dough sticking on to the surface. If the shapale are going to be sitting for a long time, you can place a damp cloth over them to keep them from drying out.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan until the oil is very hot and then place one layer of shapale in the pan and and lower heat to medium. You don’t want to burn the outsides before the inside is cooked.
- Cook until golden brown on both sides, turning frequently. Cook about 6-7 minutes for each side, for a total of 12-14 minutes. The meat must cook through.
- Be prepared to turn the fan on or to open the windows as the cooking process can be quite greasy and hot.
- Shapale go well with something light, like our trang tsel salad.
- For a dipping sauce, try Patak’s lime pickle mixed with some soy sauce, or Tibetan hot sauce.