Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chinese Beef Rolls (Beef Wrapped in Scallion Pancakes) (Niu Rou Jian Bing)

Let me cut to the chase. This Northern Chinese, quintessential street food is pure deliciousness wrapped in a roll: slices of slow-simmered 5-spiced beef with fresh greens (typically just cilantro, although I add lettuce, scallions, and jalapeños in my version) on crispy-flaky thin scallion pancakes brushed with sweet bean/hoisin sauce and wrapped "enchilada" style. Since I have this recalcitrant predilection to rate difficulty of prep with the deliciousness factor in every new culinary endeavor of mine, I was very wary, indeed, terrified, of even giving this one a shot. Turned out that, other than the long list of ingredients and prep & cooking time for the beef, this is not a hard recipe to make at all and the end result was, well, simply awesome!

3 lbs. beef shank or beef pot roast
2 whole black cardamom pods
1/4 tsp. five spice powder
5 scallions, cut into 2" pieces
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 star anise
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. whole cloves
2 tsp. fennel seeds
2" piece of ginger, sliced
3" stick of Chinese cinnamon
3 dried red chilies
1 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns
1 small onion, quartered
1 large carrot, cut into large dice
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. rock sugar
1/2 cup rice wine
1 tsp. white pepper
8 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil



4 tbsp. sweet bean paste or hoisin sauce
4 tbsp. water
1 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

2 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced along the bias
Redleaf lettuce leaves

For the Beef:

1. Add 1/4 cup of oil to a large pan or stock pot, heat over medium high heat, and add the scallions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, dried red chiles, star anise, cardamom, five spice powder, Szechuan peppercorns, cloves, fennel seeds, bay leaves, onion, carrot and cilantro. Saute for several minutes until fragrant. 

2. Add 8 cups of water, 1 cups of soy sauce, 1/2 cup rice wine and 1 tsp. of white pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. At this point, you can place everything into a slow cooker and cook for 12 hours on high overnight, OR, keep it simmering on the stovetop, partially covered, for at least 4 hours or until the meat is very tender. 

3. Remove the meat to a chopping board. If using beef chuck, coarsely chop/shred. Place the meat into a bowl or container and cover with the stewing liquid. Mix in a handful of fresh, chopped cilantro and a drizzle of sesame oil. Set aside. If using beef shank, thinly slice the meat, place into a container and ladle on some of the stewing liquid to keep the meat moist. Toss in a handful of cilantro and drizzle with a bit of sesame oil. Cover and set aside.

NOTE: Any leftover beef can be placed into a Ziploc bag or container and frozen for later use.

For the Sauce:

Make the dipping sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients into a small bowl. Cover and set aside.

How to Assemble:
1. Smear about 2 tsp. of the sweet bean/Hoisin sauce down the center of the scallion pancake. 

2. Add a generous helping of the beef over the sauce. 

3. Top the beef with fresh cilantro, scallions, jalapeños and lettuce.

4. Roll the scallion pancake over the beef in the same manner as you would if making an enchilada.

5. Slice the scallion pancake roll into 2 or 4 slices, plate, and serve with extra sauce on the side.

Black cardamom, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, rock sugar, dried red chiles, and cinnamon sticks. 

Dried red chiles, cilantro, scallions, ginger, garlic, carrots, Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, rock sugar, cinnamon stick, and onion.

Beef chuck is a good substitute for beef shank, which is not as readily available in our local supermarkets. 

Cut the beef chuck into 2 large pieces.

Saute the aromatics, rock sugar, and greens for the beef.

Add the beef, water, soy sauce, wine, and white pepper. 

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes of simmering, you can pour everything into a slow cooker and cook over high for 12 hours. Alternatively, you can keep the mixture on the stovetop, partially cover, and simmer for 4-5 hours or until the beef is very tender.

This is the chuck roast version. I've removed the meat onto a chopping board and chopped/shredded it into small pieces.

For the sauce: sweet bean sauce, water, and sesame oil.

The shredded meat is placed into a container, covered with the stewing liquid, and seasoned with a drizzle of sesame oil and fresh chopped cilantro. 

Schmear some sweet bean/hoisin sauce over the center of the pancake.

Top with beef, cilantro, shredded scallion, sliced jalapeños and lettuce. 

Roll up like an enchilada, then slice the roll into twos or fours, and serve with extra dipping sauce on the side. 


  1. This recipe is outstanding! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Love this food. Ate this all the time in Taiwan and miss it now I'm back home. All the details and pics, thanks for that. I'm on the way to the supermarket now. Xie xie!