Restaurant-style cumin lamb noodles are made with homemade hand-pulled noodles and tender chunks of lamb that make for a bold taste in an addictive chili oil sauce.
If you’ve been to New York, perhaps you’ve heard of Xi’an Famous Foods. This restaurant is legendary for its cumin lamb noodles and Chinese pork burgers. And if you haven’t been, until you can come here and experience them yourself, you can make them in your own kitchen.
This dish is definitely not a weeknight dinner if you want to make it with homemade hand-pulled noodles, but it is absolutely worth every effort. In the original recipe, the secret sauce for cumin lamb noodles uses 30 spices! Don’t worry, my version of cumin lamb noodles takes an easier approach to recreating this heavenly and boldly flavored dish that tastes just as great.
My version of cumin lamb noodles also uses ingredients that are closer to what I found when I was traveling in Xi’an. I added cilantro and skipped out on the celery and cabbage that the restaurant uses in its famous recipe. But one thing I didn’t skip is making the hand-pulled noodles. That’s what really gives this dish the Xi’an Famous Foods’ flavor and style.
I have a recipe for hand-pulled noodles and I promise, they are really easy to make, even if you’ve never made homemade noodles or pasta before in your life. And believe me, they taste so much better. You’ll see!
Lamb meat & cutting method
What cut of lamb to use
A well-marbled cut is the best, such as loin or shoulder. However, a tender and fatty cut might be hard to come by. You can ask your local butcher for a recommendation depending on the availability. If they carry large pieces of stew meat, you might be able to cut them into slices and use them in this recipe.
How to cut lamb meat
Handling the lamb meat properly is key to making a great plate of stir fry. Sometimes you might get a cut with a lot of connective tissue, like the lamb shoulder I got from Whole Foods. It’s important to remove these tough white parts and membrane-like layers. Otherwise they will end up very tough and chewy once cooked.
To get the best taste, we used whole spices, dry roast them to release fragrance, then grind them fresh. It doubles the fragrance you usually get from using ground spices. I highly recommend you to do the same for this dish.
It’s also very important to cut and prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. Lamb meat is prone to overcooking and will taste like dry cardboard if you do not move fast enough during the cooking.
NOTE: Sorry I forgot to include the cut cilantro in the photo below!
Alternative to hand-pulled noodles
If you do not want to make hand-pulled noodles, the best alternative is the wide semi-fresh noodles. You can usually get them at an Asian market’s refrigerated section. They might be labeled “pulled noodles”, “planed noodles”, “sliced noodles”, or “cut noodles”. There are several brands I like including the package shown below. You can usually judge by the look of the noodles, they are fatty and wide.
Once you’re done prepping, the actual cooking process is actually super fast.
- Sear the lamb
- Add the aromatics – ginger and garlic
- Add the onion and pepper for a quick stir fry
- Mix with the dry spices
- Pour in the sauce
- Quickly mix again
- Mix with the cilantro
- Add to the plate of noodles and serve
Chili oil alert
This dish is a phenomenal and indulgent treat. You’ll ‘WOW’ guests at a dinner gathering or have a wonderful dinner for two on the weekend. However, be advised that this is NOT a diet-friendly dish. Cumin lamb noodles use a lot of homemade chili oil (half a cup, as a matter of fact!) to create the sauce just like the restaurant’s.
I get it that might be a lot of oil for you, but you can reduce it to 1/4 cup and simply add more when you serve it. Don’t worry…homemade chili oil is not super spicy so you won’t wind up with more heat than you can handle, just bold-tasting flavors in every bite.
PS. Xi’an Famous Foods Will release a cookbook on Oct 17th, 2020. I’ve pre-ordered and I can’t wait to compare my version with theirs. And of course, learning all the recipes of my favorite dishes from the restaurant. Check out their book if you like the food as much as I do!
Serve Cumin Lamb Noodles with
- Chinese Pickled Cabbage (A Quick Pickle Recipe)
- Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)
- Chinese Sauteed Potato
- Chinese Egg Drop Soup
- Mom’s Best Pork Dumplings with Cabbage
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Cumin Lamb Noodles
- 1 batch homemade hand-pulled noodles (or wide wheat noodles) (*Footnote 1)
Spice Mix *(Footnote 2)
- 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons sichuan peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
Meat & Marinade
- 1 lb (450 g) lamb , thinly sliced against the grain (well-marbled cut like loin or shoulder)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
- 8 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 “ (5 cm) ginger , minced
- 1 red onion , thinly sliced
- 1 hot green chili , sliced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro , chopped (yield 1 heap cup loosely packed cut cilantro)
- If making your own noodles make sure the dough is fully prepared before beginning the lamb stir fry. Set a pot of water to boil so that it will be ready to boil the noodles as soon as the lamb is done.
- Add the cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, and coriander to a dry pan and heat over medium-low heat. Stir and toss frequently. Toast until the spices are fragrant and beginning to pop, about 5 minutes. Take the spices off the heat and grind until partially powdered. You can use a mortar & pestle, a spice grinder, a coffee grinder, or by crushing the spices with the bottom of a heavy pan.
- Combine the lamb, Shaoxing wine, salt, oil, and 2 teaspoons of the ground spices and mix. Add the cornstarch and mix by hand until the lamb is fully coated. Marinate for 15 minutes.
Cook lamb sauce
- Add the oil to a large skillet and heat over high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the marinated lamb and spread it into a single layer. Separate the individual slices with minimal overlapping using a pair of tongs or chopsticks. Add the garlic and ginger on top. Leave the lamb to sear for 30 seconds to a minute until the bottom is browned.
- Once the lamb is browned on one side, stir occasionally until the lamb is mostly browned on both sides and the aromatics begin to turn golden. It’s OK if the inside of the lamb is still slightly pink.
- Add the red onion and green chilis. Stir fry for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Add the spice mix and toss to coat everything with the spices.
- Pour in the sauce and scrape the bottom of the pan to lift any caramelization. Stir fry for another 30 seconds.
- Turn the heat off and add the cilantro, stirring to incorporate. Transfer everything to a big plate so the lamb stops cooking.
- If using hand-pulled noodles – Take your prepared dough, stretch each piece, and add it to the boiled water. Cook them for 1 to 2 minutes.
- If using packaged noodles – cook them according to the instructions.
- Transfer the cooked noodles into 4 bowls.
- Add the lamb and sauce over the noodles. You can add extra chili oil, chinkiang vinegar, and soy sauce to taste. Enjoy!
- You will need about 2/3 batch of the hand-pulled noodles for this dish if you like an intensive result (like the restaurant version). But I recommend making the whole batch so you will be sure to have enough noodles, and maybe some leftovers.
- You can use pre-ground spices but you may want to increase the amount by 1 teaspoon each as they will be less fragrant. If you do, skip step 2 and when you add the spices in step 6, stir fry for 10-30 seconds, until the spices are fragrant, before adding the sauce.
- If 1/2 cup chili oil sounds like too much to you, use 1/4 cup in the cooking and add more later if needed.
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
More delicious Chinese noodle recipes
- Da Pan Ji (Chicken Potato Stew with Noodles, 大盘鸡)
- The Best Chinese Noodle Sauce (Da Lu Mian, 打卤面)
- Ding Ding Chao Mian (丁丁炒面, Fried Noodles in Lamb Tomato Sauce)
- Real Deal Sesame Noodles
- Chinese Beef Noodle Soup (红烧牛肉面)
- Dan Dan Noodles
- Beef Pan-Fried Noodles
Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.