This is the story of one of the coolest (and tastiest!) street foods we have ever encountered in years of sampling the best Beijing and the rest of China has to offer.
Right across the street from our apartment this summer, there was this strange looking food cart that would appear most every morning. (It took us, by the way, some close up investigation to establish that this was indeed a mobile food shop, as opposed to any number of other kinds of street establishments it might plausibly have been.)
With two guys manning the cart, Z's dreams became reality when we realized that this was a little operation specializing in the production of a single food item...Muslim-style flat bread. For years, Z has been living off this stuff, eating kao nang everywhere from the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an to Xinjiang restaurants across Beijing.
This, however, was taking it to a whole other level...First thing in the morning...On our way back into the apartment after a day of trekking around the capital city...Pretty much any time there was a hole in Z's stomach, it was kao nang to the rescue! (That includes, by the way, on our way to the airport when we were moving back to the US!)
The operation really is simple...One guy works with the dough, pulling it out of a huge ball into small pieces, working it into shape, adding oil and seasonings. His partner, meanwhile, mans this crazy-looking roundish oven that has coals at the bottom. (Click on the attached photo to get a better look at the whole scene.) When the dough is ready, the ovenmaster slaps the bread onto the inside of the contraption. A couple of minutes later, he uses a long metal device to extract the now-cooked bread from its perch, bringing out kao nang that is immediately ready to be eaten and enjoyed.
Man, that's some good stuff!