Zhuang Mo – a unique bun in Henan

Zhuang Mo

Zhuang mo (壮馍), as a renowned traditional snack in Henan Province, boasts a rich cultural heritage and unique flavor. Its origin has various interpretations, with one of the most prevalent stories linking it to Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Legend has it that during the Hongwu period of the Ming Dynasty, a scholar from Kaizhou (present-day Puyang, Henan) was traveling to the capital for the imperial examination. His wife prepared special pancakes as provisions for the journey. These pancakes, known as “zhuang yuan mo,” were tasted by Zhu Yuanzhang after the scholar achieved top honors, and due to their deliciousness, they were named “zhuang mo,” implying that consuming them could strengthen the body.

Craftsmanship:

  1. Ingredients: The main ingredients for Henan zhuang mo are unfermented wheat flour, combined with scallions, vermicelli, and meat stuffing.
  2. Kneading: Fresh wheat flour is preferred, ideally with the bran removed. The dough is kneaded and pressed to make it more resilient.
  3. Rolling: The dough is rolled into a flat pancake shape, sprinkled with sesame seeds on top, and perforated with “air holes” on the bottom, while decorative patterns are imprinted along the edges.
  4. Baking: In the past, zhuang mo was often baked over charcoal, but nowadays, it is commonly baked in large ovens until golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside.

Henan zhuang mo has a chewy and tender texture, bursting with flavor. It is oily but not greasy, leaving a lingering taste in the mouth. Shaped like a full moon, it typically has a diameter of about 30-35 centimeters and is adorned with sesame seeds on the surface. The filling primarily consists of fresh mutton, although other types of meat or vegetarian fillings can be used, combined with scallions, ginger, and sesame oil to enhance the taste.

While Henan zhuang mo is produced throughout the province, it is particularly famous in the Puyang region. Numerous shops in Puyang specialize in making zhuang mo, such as Liu Family Zhuang Mo and Zi’an Chengji Zhuang Mo, many of which have been recognized as time-honored brands in Henan. These establishments attract countless diners with their distinctive flavor and craftsmanship.

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