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
- 1/2 cup homemade chili oil (and more to taste) (*Footnote 3)
- 3 tablespoons chinkiang vinegar
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
- 4 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 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.
Questions and Reviews
maggie this recepe is innaproprier nowing what is going on in xingjiang let the ouigourts make us discovering their cuisine
stick to chinese
No one likes a bully or a scold. This site isnt your soapbox. Get a grip on yourself.
Amen. Maybe if we try real hard we can keep cooking fun, friendly, rant free, and thanks to Chef Zhu, informative too.
Agree with Hilly
A really amazing recipe! I have made this 3 times now and is a great Friday Dinner! Definitely worth the effort to source the Ingredients needed! Thanks Maggi for a well described and awesome recipe! Love the pictures as well 🙂 keep sharing recipes!
You clearly know nothing about Chinese food. Also, ouigourts? Sounds like you need some education.
A question? I’m allergic to Lamb, what else would work. I have been to Xian Foods and loved the hand pulled noodles. Would love to try your Recipe.
You can use beef to replace the lamb and get a great result! Flank, or any marbled steak will work. Chicken would work too but it will taste way milder.
Very good, if a tad salty. I used 3/4 lb of large penne pasta to start and added an additional 1/4 lb afterwards to offset the saltiness. Next time i will either reduce the amount of soy sauce, or reduce the salt In the marinade or both. I subbed flat leaf parsley for the cilantro with good effect. The changes I made to the recipe were minor, tasted great, and looked attractive.
Thank you, Maggie
I was just wondering about the noodles.
If I’m going to use store bought, fresh noodles (probably knife cut) how much do you think would be appropriate, like 400 grams?
Yeah 400 go (or slightly less) sounds about right. Happy cooking and hope you enjoy the dish! 🙂
Wonderful! Just like I remember. Thank you!
Made these twice now. Once just for my husband to see if I could pull it off and a second time for company. The hand pulled noodles are a MUST! I was told this might be the best homemade meal they’d had. The flavors were incredible. We followed the recipe exactly from the homemade noodles to the chili oil. The smell of the oil when you pour it over the spices… heaven! Can not wait to try more of your recipes as this was my first. Incredibly impressive. Thank you!
Hi Cassie, thanks so much for leaving a thorough review and I’m so glad to hear your noodles came out well 🙂 Can’t wait to hear what you will cook the next!
Loved this recipe! It was layered and extremely flavorful. I can’t wait to add it to my regular cycle of meals. Thank you for the notes, as well; I halved the chili oil as recommended. It was perfect the perfect level of spice for someone with a lower tolerance for heat and still left plenty of “gravy” to coat the noodles.
Made this dish and my family loved it! I had my 22 year old son making the noodles too. I was afraid it will be too spicy but it was just the right amount of heat for us.
I was a bit apprehensive about the noodles. It was intimidating at first. Our noodles weren’t as flat nor as wide but it was perfect with the lamb and sauce.. We lived the chew of the noodles.
Thank you! A great dish that we will make again!
Cumin + Lamb is always an immediate five star review. Thank you for the recipe.
I am really curious if anyone has attempted to recreate the 30 ingredient sauce. It would be quite the challenge.
Thanks for leaving a positive review and glad to hear you like the dish!
I’m curious about the 30 ingredient sauce too. The version from their cookbook didn’t include it (for obvious reasons) so maybe we’ll never figure it out.
Hi, I forgot to get the vinegar. Will the recipe still turn out ok? Can I use rice vinegar instead? Thanks! Made the chili oil and the dough so far!
I did not know how much noodles to put in, I think I put too much. At the end, the noodles drunk all the sauce. while eating the dish it felt like eating sand although my spices were ground finely.
I did follow the recipe but did not do good at following it. The dish was not tasting the original.
I have to say I am having difficulties cooking recipes with Sichuan spices, I found it the most difficult cuisine to cook. I can do Norther Chinese, Southern Chinese very successfully, but when it comes to Sichuan food, I just do not have the “hand”, I am going to need a face-to-face approach for it around my Jersey home.
Love this recipe! Definitely not a weeknight meal as you say, but so worthwhile to make on the weekends or as a treat. Just made a double batch and wondered if it’s possible to freeze leftover noodles and sauce?
I think you can. Just need to make sure to thaw them thoroughly and do not reheat it up too hard, otherwise the lamb will become chewier.
Glad to hear you like the dish and thanks for leaving a positive review 🙂
Thank you very much for this website! I cook one of your recipes at least once a week. They have all been amazing. However, today I tried the cumin lamb noodles, and I ran into a problem. I followed the recipe exactly (doubled everything), only substituting sirloin for lamb and sawtooth coriander for cilantro because cilantro is challenging to get sometimes where I’m at in the Philippines. I toasted the spices and ground them very fine in my mortar and pestle, however, when eating the dish there was a gritty texture. My wife noticed this as well and commented if she were in a restaurant she would think they added sand to the dish. Do you know what I may have done wrong? I added 4 teaspoons ground toasted spices to the beef while marinating it. I added the balance of the dry toasted spices to the dish at the point instructed in the recipe. Also, a mistake I made was preparing the noodles too early in the day. I made the ovals, brushed with oil and covered in plastic. They rested on the counter from noon until 6 when I made dinner. They were quite wet/oily and difficult to work with. Should I have placed the dough into the ref until closer to dinnertime?
Hmmm I’m not sure why the texture turned out sandy. I actually prefer to ground the ingredients to a coarse texture, so not sure if grounding them very fine has the opposite effect (since this recipe uses a lot of spices).
For the noodles, I would store it in the fridge if you plan to use it later. I think if you prepare it too early and leave it at room temperature, the dough will become too loose.
The gritty texture can come from inferior Szechuan peppercorns. They have a tiny hard little black seeds that should be removed leaving just the husk but cheaper versions don’t do this very well.
What kind of pepper should I use? Thai chili, jalapeño?
I prefer to use anaheim or cubanelles because both are not super spicy and has a nice flavor. Jalapeno is a good option as well.
I wouldn’t use Thai chili because it’s too spicy.
This was super solid, great first foray into Chinese cooking for me, inspired by constantly eating at my favourite Chinese restaurants!
This was just goooood! Time consuming when making fresh noodles(for the first time), BUT well worth it!!
Enjoyed this recipe so immensely.So nice it was.
Very tasty. Love the flavors!
Fun recipe! Always a tasty night when trying out one of Maggie’s recipes 🙂
WOW! This sounds awesome Maggie! Going to try it. Could it also work with beef? Thanks!
Yes! It definitely works with beef and should taste just as great. Happy cooking!
Can you share where you buy your noodles?
This recipe is SO delicious! I made the hand pulled noodles as well, which takes some forethought to give the dough time to rest, but isn’t too difficult. I love the tingling, numbing spice from the Sichuan peppercorns. Definitely saving to make again!
So happy to hear you enjoyed this one, and thanks for leaving a positive review! 🙂
Can you use ground lamb?
Yes you can 🙂
Hi Maggie! I did like this but! Mine didn’t look as good as the picture. The picture looks a lovely bright reddish colour, mine looks greyish. I’m not sure what is making it that lovely red colour? Will cut down on the chilli oil next time.
I added a ton of chili oil to get the color 😛 It helps if you can heat the pan really hot, and sear the lamb to develop a nice char.
The other thing is, depending on the chili flakes you use to make the chili oil (or the type of oil you buy), it can look quite light and orange, and some chili oil is very red.
Hey there! Just perusing the freezer: do you think I could get away with using ground lamb?
Yes! I love using ground lamb in the dish and it should be very tasty.
Hi! Looks great and I’m excited to try.. Any tips if I’m using lean ground lamb instead?
You can totally use ground lamb. The rest recipe ingredients stay the same. When you brown the ground lamb, you can use high heat to cook it, and break them into smaller pieces. Happy cooking!
This was a winner! I had everything you used in my cabinet. Thanks to grabbing black vinegar on a long ago shopping trip to the Asian market month’s ago. Will make this again. Again thank you!
A phenomenal recipe, I’ve made it a few times now. Sichuan food (or really – any kind of ‘authentic’ Chinese outside of the Americanised-takeaway stuff) is hard to come by where I am usually based, so I wouldn’t know how this measures up to the ‘real deal’ – but I adore this dish. The perfect mix of spice, heat and tartness from the chianking vinegar. As I’m writing this and thinking about eating this dish, I’m mainly thinking I need to make this recipe again soon.