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little snacks

Recipe: chinese curried beef pastries

Mom and Dad returned home last week. As we all get older, I tend to feel a hint of sadness whenever we say goodbye, but let me tell you who was the saddest about their absence…

yes, kaweah

I kinda love that picture because it’s so funny and it’s also incredibly sweet. Kaweah is utterly devoted to my dad and to be honest, I don’t think anyone adores him more than she does. In the days that followed my parents’ visit, Kaweah was mopier than usual, but she has since resumed her normal schedule of chasing bunnies in her dreams, eating, pretending she hasn’t eaten yet, and tracking the sun across the living room each day. As for me, my sights are set skyward once again, rather than on the road from a car. We’ve had some great cloud porn of late – especially the combination of stacked lenticulars and wave clouds.

sunset gold

a final rosy blush

dramatic mid-morning wave cloud front right over my driveway

Living on the leeward side of a high mountain range that abuts a flat topography (the Colorado Front Range or the Eastern Sierra Nevada, for example) provides opportunities to witness some amazing cloud formations and to appreciate the beauty of fluid dynamics and optical phenomena. Oh, and if you mosey an hour east of where I live, you can actually find decent dim sum! And by decent, I mean, it could pass for the average dim sum joint in California’s Bay Area. As I’ve said before, I don’t venture to Denver often, but when I do, there has to be good food involved. Add good folks like Kat and Cindi, and it’s a grand old time.

dim sum at superstar asian in denver (iphone)

cindi made custom whee one toys of our pets! (iphone)

kaweah and her doppelgänger (before she tried to eat it)

And look, December has not forsaken me, after all. I’m willing to forgive the sunny and 70°F weather in December in Colorado if I can finally get the skis out…

yes, please

Dim sum means “snacks”, which got me thinking about all manner of Chinese snacks or treats I grew up sampling. It’s been my long-term goal to learn to make some of these treats, partly out of curiosity and mostly because I can’t get them around here. One of my favorites is a savory curried beef pastry – curried browned beef with onions wrapped in a flaky, golden pastry.

beef, soy sauce, onion, curry powder, salt, flour, egg yolk, butter

dice the onion

sauté onion with curry powder

The recipe I used calls for potatoes in the filling, but I am more accustomed to having these curried beef pastries without potatoes. It’s easy enough to add if you like the idea. Cooking up the filling takes no time at all, especially if you skip the potatoes.

brown the beef with the onions

add soy sauce

ready for pastry

If you really want to make this a quick project, you can use prepared pie crust. Personally, I don’t touch that stuff. Pie crust made from scratch is a bazillion times better tasting and contains four ingredients: flour, butter, salt, and water. It doesn’t require preservatives or food coloring or hydrogenated fats like the commercial version.

cutting butter into the flour and salt

chilled dough

roll it to 1/8-inch thickness

The typical size of the pastries is a tiny hand-pie that fits happily in the palm of your hand. You can opt to make them larger, if you like, but the smallness of the snack is part of the appeal for me. Of course, the smaller the treat, the more delicate they are to handle when rope pinching the edges.

using a 3-inch biscuit cutter

add a spoonful of beef filling

rope pinch the edges

The rope pinching of the edges can try your patience, especially if you aren’t practiced at it. My first one always turns out looking terrible (it’s usually the test pastry when they come out of the oven), but like most things, if you stick with it you will eventually get the hang of the technique. Don’t manhandle the dough, just be patient, deliberate, and use a light touch. Pinch the edge together, fold it over on itself toward the center, tuck it down, and pinch to seal. Repeat.

brush with egg yolk

on a parchment-lined baking sheet and ready for the oven

cooling on a wire rack

These curried beef pastries are best eaten hot, but be careful not to burn your mouth in your enthusiasm as the steam escapes from the filling. The outer pastry should be flaky and crisp while the interior remains moist. They keep well too, either in the refrigerator or the freezer. Just heat them up in a moderate oven (350°F) for several minutes and it’s as good as fresh baked. They’re excellent with a hot cup of green tea too!

your own little dim sum goodness

little pastry packed full of savory curry beef filling

Chinese Curried Beef Pastries
[print recipe]
modified from Table for Two

pastry dough
1-2 tbsps vegetable oil
1 onion, diced small
4 tbsps curry powder
1 lb. ground beef
4 tbsps (2 oz.) soy sauce
2 tsps salt (to taste)
1 egg yolk

pastry dough
15 oz. or 3 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
9 oz. butter, chilled and cut into cubes
8-10 tbsps water

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl and cut the chilled cubes of butter into the flour until it resembles pea-shaped pebbles. Add water to the dough a tablespoon at a time, tossing it with a fork to incorporate until it just begins to stick together when you pinch the dough between your fingers. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill it for an hour in the refrigerator.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onions and a tablespoon of the curry powder in the oil until the onions begin to sweat. Add the beef, soy sauce, and remaining curry powder. Brown the beef. Stir in salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. When the dough is chilled, set it on a floured workspace and roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch circles with a biscuit or cookie cutter. Combine the scraps, roll it out, and cut more circles until you are out of dough. Place 1-2 tablespoons of beef filling on each circle of dough and fold the dough over (in half) to form a semi-circle. Pinch the edges together and then rope pinch the curved edge. [To rope pinch: start from one end and tuck the edge of the dough over and back onto itself toward the center, about 1/4-inch, then pinch. Move 1/4-inch down and repeat until you reach the other end. Refer to the photos on blog post.] Set the pastries on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Beat the egg yolk and brush it over each pastry. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the pastry turns golden brown. Serve hot. Makes 2-3 dozen (depending on your yield from the pastry dough).

33 nibbles at “little snacks”

  1. swan says:

    hey jen–you are on my mind today b/c i’m going to make the red wine marinated braised short ribs. the ziplock has been in the fridge since yesterday am! the pastry looks so tasty as well. the story of your father and kaweah is awesome; my dog goes ballistic over my 21 year old niece sierra. he never jumps on people but when he sees her walk in, he absolutely loses it. very cute. hope you get some snow! thanks again for all your work!


  2. wanG says:

    the recipe is similar to curry’s just that in the preparation of curried beef we omit soy sauce.

  3. megan says:

    YUM! reading your posts makes me want to make EVERYTHING.
    i love the picture of kaweah and your dad! she is adorable :)

  4. Linda | The Urban Mrs says:

    Awww this looks very delicious! The story of your dad reminds me of my dad so much. Ah, how I miss him.

  5. Pomme says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I’m gonna try it very soon.

  6. Kurt Jacobson says:

    Love the recipes and the dog shots. I just posted my first Youtube video, and my dog is right behind me while I’m mincing the onion in the video. I decided not to shoo her out of the kitchen, and I’m glad I let her stay.

  7. April says:

    Just made these for lunch except bigger (with ground turkey) and with a tbsp less curry powder because that’s all I had. I also added cheddar cheese to a few of them and brushed them with egg whites instead of yolks because my dad has a cholesterol problem. They were delicious!

  8. Rachel K says:

    Lovely recipe – reminds me of Malaysian curry puffs! Would make fabulous party nibbles.

  9. Marisa @ Uproot From Oregon says:

    I love super star asian!!! So glad that the dim sum place I visit when I get out to Denver is authentic according to jen : ) I can’t wait to go there in January when I spend a week in Denver and Taos.

  10. Diana says:

    I had a sudden craving for this the other day but I didn’t have the initiative to google a recipe. Sooo glad you posted this because now I have the recipe lol thank you! :)

  11. Susanne says:

    Good gravy, woman. I need to stop reading your blog late at night. I go to bed hungry every time! :) Can’t wait to make these…

  12. Clyn in Singapore says:

    These are just like the curry puffs we get here! Yum!
    I love your stories, your photos and your recipes! Thank you!

  13. Erin @ Texanerin Baking says:

    Kaweah is adorable! And amazing cloud pictures.

    These pastries look amazingly delicious! I think I’ll make them for my husband as a special surprise. :)

  14. Shut Up & Cook | The Attainable Gourmet says:

    I had lunch at a little irish pub here in Seattle the other day and had a spectacular Pastie…so this is well timed as I’ve been craving them ever since!

  15. Stefanie says:

    Those look so good!

  16. Ruth Ann says:

    Those beef pies look so good.
    I love Kaweah, she is such a loyal dog. I had a black lab like her when I was growing up and she was wonderful.
    Wishing you good snow,
    Ruth Ann

  17. jenyu says:

    swan – mmm, that sounds good! dogs are funny, aren’t they? :)

    wanG – Oh, I think they’re all pretty similar and they’re all yummy!!

    megan – ha ha, thanks!

    Linda – xo

    Pomme – hope you like it!

    Kurt – it’s always nice to have a companion around while you work.

    April – great!! So glad to hear it :)

    Rachel K – nice idea!

    Marisa – wow, Denver and Taos are not terribly close to each other! Have fun :)

    Diana – I read your mind ;)

    Susanne – I find there is never a good time to read food blogs because they make you hungry no matter what.

    Clyn – thank you!!

    Erin – :)

    Shut Up and Cook – I pretty much love any sort of meat pie or pastry.

    Stefanie – thanks!

    Ruth Ann – thanks, dear xo

  18. Bing Chou says:

    I’m headed to Superstar this morning with a pit stop at POM to load up on produce! This post has me hungry…

  19. Jasmine says:

    hope this isnt to silly a question but about how much do i measure in a cup for 9oz butter?thanks

  20. jenyu says:

    Jasmine – 1 stick of butter is 1/2 cup is 4 ounces, so 8 ounces would be 2 sticks or 1 cup and to get 9 ounces, just add 2 tbsps to a cup.

  21. Rae says:

    Does anyone have experience making these ahead of time and freezing? Or could I refrigerate them for a day before baking? Any advice? Thanks!

  22. jenyu says:

    Rae – I would bake them through, then you can freeze or refrigerate. When you want to serve, you can pop them in a warm oven for 5-10 min.

  23. Meena says:

    I am new to this space, love it to the core , beautiful pictures ,lovely presentation.Browsing thru u r recipes for past 2 days,

  24. rose says:

    great website, trying recipes today – thanks

  25. shannon says:

    It’s embarrassing how often I make these :) They are fantastic and requested very often!! Making them right now actually!! This is a no fail recipe that will be a hit with everyone! I serve them with a Jamaican hot sauce. Thank you for the recipe!!!

  26. pocky says:

    Great recipe! I made these yesterday, however the filling got quite dry after I baked the puffs. Is there anyway to keep the beef moist?

  27. jenyu says:

    pocky – you might add a little fat (lard or butter) to help keep it moist?

  28. Chinese Beef Curry Pastries on says:

    […] Chinese Beef Curry Pastries, from Use Real Butter […]

  29. Virginia says:

    Hi Jenyu,
    Thank you for such a great recipe. I tried it and found the beef mixture quite salty and I only added the soy sauce, am I doing something wrong?

    Please help!

  30. jenyu says:

    Virginia – Perhaps you’re more sensitive to the salt/sodium? Or maybe your soy sauce brand is more “potent” than the brand I use? I would reduce the amount of soy sauce and wait to add it until the beef is cooked. Then you can add to taste so it’s how you like it. Sorry it didn’t go over well the first time!

  31. Curry puffs - Two Red Bowls says:

    […] puffs can be made with a beautiful rope-braided edge that you can see in this post from Jen at Use Real Butter, on which this recipe is based, but you can pleat or seal the puffs in whatever way is easiest […]

  32. ChasL says:

    use shredded potato it’ll cook fast

  33. Mia Downey Nathan and Nicole’s daughter says:

    This were really good everyone ate them. Really good recipe!!

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