Phale is the Tibetan word for "bread." These round empanada-like filled breads are called shaphale. They're made from two flatbread dough rounds pinched together around a cooked meat filling, then skillet baked in a little oil. The edges are attractively fluted, the breads pale golden brown. We first tasted them on a damp, cold March evening in the market in Darjeeling, a hill town near the borders of Sikkim and Bhutan that has a large Tibetan population.
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted ghee or butter
1 cup lukewarm water, or a little more
1/4 cup ghee or vegetable oil for frying
1 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced ginger or ginger mashed to a paste
1 cup (about 1/2 pound) coarsely chopped boneless chicken thighs, beef or pork
1 dried red chile or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
generous grinding of black pepper
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours, whatever is more convenient.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Heat the oil in a wok or karhai or a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is well softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the meat, the chile or cayenne, coriander, salt, and pepper and stir-fry, breaking up any lumps in the meat, until it is browned and cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove and discard the chile if you used one. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into sixteen pieces. Flatten each piece a little, turning it over to flour it on both sides. Leaving the other pieces lightly covered, roll two pieces out to 7-inch rounds. Spread a generous 2 tablespoons filling on one bread, leaving a 1-inch margin all round. Place the other bread on top and pinch and roll the edges closed all around between your thumb and forefinger, to make a sealed fluted edge. Flatten gently under the palm of your hand.
Place a heavy skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add about 2 teaspoons ghee or oil and spread it over the surface with a spatula. Lower the heat a little. Place the bread top-side down in the skillet, and cook for 1 minute. Turn over and cook on the second side until golden brown, then turn back to the first side to cook until well browned. While the first bread is cooking, roll out two more rounds, fill, and shape.
Remove the first bread from the skillet and serve hot, or wrap in a cotton cloth to keep warm. Grease the skillet again with about 1 teaspoon ghee or oil and cook the next bread.
Ease of Preparation: Moderate
Preparation Time: 15 min
plus time to rise
Cook Time: 15 min
Servings: makes 8 breads
Recipe By: Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
From: Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
Used with permission of Workman Publishing Company