It was a cold and rainy day during the pandemic when Crop Circle, a new Chinese restaurant in New York City’s West Village, sent me over a few Guokui to try. The “big as your face” stuffed flatbread was something I had never heard of before, but carbs on a rainy day? YES.
Guokui is a street snack from the Shaanxi province of northern China, though Crop Circle serves a variation from Jingzhou in the Hubei province. The dough is stuffed, sprinkled with sesame seeds, flattened into an oval, and baked in a tandoor-style oven for two to three minutes. Four different varieties arrived in my bag: mooncake, spicy beef, preserved vegetables, and the seasonal pumpkin, which I opted to try first.
The bread really is as big as your face—I think it was even as big as my head! I ripped off a piece and thought the bread was dense compared to the filling's thinness. But when I took a bite—wow! There was so much flavor. Sesame seeds, pumpkin, and coconut all came together for a savory treat that wasn’t like the American or Indian or Italian flatbreads I’m familiar with. The bread felt similar to naan, but the flavors were definitely Chinese.
The other Guokui were all as impressive. The mooncake, stuffed with salted egg yolk and pork floss, was an umami treat. The preserved vegetable one got a bit of zing from the soy sauce. The spicy beef packed a punch that betrayed its thin size—its spice level is not for the faint of heart. All had great texture thanks to the crunch of sesame seeds against the soft bread.
As street food, this would definitely hit the spot while walking around, but I have to say I certainly enjoyed eating it while quarantined at home. One day I even got creative by topping the preserved vegetable Goukui with an egg, then rolling it up for a fun twist on breakfast!
I definitely enjoyed giving Guoki a try; I've fully embraced this new (to me) and delicious comfort food!