Traditional Naxi sweet baba

Traditional Naxi sweet baba

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong
24 pieces
Stuart Scott

Ancient traders took this crisp, flaky flat bread on their long trips along the ‘Tea Horse Trail’, as it travelled well and sustained them. A staple in the Naxi diet, baba is eaten with everything. Some are plain; others stuffed with spring onions (scallions), pork or eggs; I’ve even tried baba smeared with preserved bean curd. While they were all delicious, this sweet version, taught to me by a local lady named Aiyee, is the one I enjoyed most. Aiyee says it is essential to follow her folding tips, to create the much-needed multi-layered texture of this sweet baba. It is also important to use lard in this recipe, as it makes the pastry light and flaky.


Quantity Ingredient
300g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200ml sparkling spring water
40g unsalted roasted peanuts
25g roasted walnuts
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
250g lard


  1. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and water in a bowl and mix until a coarse dough forms. Knead on a lightly floured work surface to a smooth dough, repeatedly folding the dough back onto itself as you knead, to incorporate air into it. The folding technique is essential for a baba — you need to ‘fold’ the dough as you knead it, to get enough air through it. Cover the dough with a tea towel (dish towel) and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, using a large mortar and pestle, pound the peanuts, walnuts and sesame seeds together into a ’fine powder. Add the sugars and mix well.
  3. Divide the rested dough into three evenly sized balls. Using a rolling pin, roll each portion out to an oval about 30 cm long, 12 cm wide and 5 mm thick. Now spread 1 tablespoon of the lard on top œof each oval.
  4. Starting from the bottom of each oval, and working with one piece at a time, tightly roll up the dough, creating nice ’firm rolls about 15œcm wide.
  5. Working with one piece at a time, hold the roll at each end, then twist the roll tightly in opposite directions, to œform a tight, twisted rope. This helps create more layers in the dough. Fold the twisted roll in half lengthways, then use the palms of your hands to flatten the whole thing. Holding one end down, use your other hand to further knead and work the dough out until it is 1 cm thick and perfectly round.
  6. Using both hands, and again working with one round at a time, cup each round in your hand and work it with your thumb to form a deep cup shape in your palm. Now form a œpocket in the dough portions, deep enough to spoon in a generous tablespoon of the nut mixture. Enclose the pocket by pinching the edges with your’ fingers until it looks like a round bun.
  7. Now use the rolling pin to roll each bun into a perfect round shape, 1 cm thick.
  8. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add one third of the remaining lard. Fry one baba for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Repeat with the other two baba rounds.
  9. Slice each baba into eight pieces, as you would a pizza, andœ serve.
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