Xi’an, being on the silk road, sits at a fascinating middle ground between east and west, only in this case, west means not Europe but the steppes of Central Asia.
This soup reflects that heritage: it blends Chinese spices and flavors (ginger, star anise, sichuan peppercorns) with lamb, a very Central Asian meat, and bread. The bread is almost a homestyle flour tortilla or naan, meant to be ripped apart and doused in the soup, to thicken and dissolve in the broth.
Noodles make an appearance as well, and the entire experience is one of warmth, both temperature, spiciness, and soul-warming home-ish-ness. That’s not a word.
I think I’m going to try this with chicken, since my wife will go for that. Its won’t be the same! But at least it’s close. Try this out and let me know what you think!
- 1 1/2 pounds (3 kg) boneless lamb (mutton, goat or stew-grade beef also work)
- 10 cups ( litres) beef stock
- 1 tsp (5 ml) fennel seeds
- 1 tsp (5 ml) Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 small stick cinnamon
- 2 or 3 dried Thai chiles
- 2 inches (5 cm) fresh ginger, smashed
- 5 green onions, trimmed, lightly smashed
- 1 tsp (5 ml) sea salt, or to taste
- 2 cups (250 g) flour
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 bundles cellophane noodles, soaked in cool water until soft
- 1/4 cup ( ml) dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked in to water for at least an hour
- handful of cilantro, chopped
- chili paste or oil, to taste
- black vinegar, to taste
- Cut the meat up into inch (2 cm) size cubes or so. Place them in a large dutch oven or soup pot, cover with water, and boil for about 10 minutes, just to remove the initial fat. Pour out the water and the scum which forms on top, and rise the meat in a colander. Rinse out the pot / dutch oven and replace the parboiled meat and add the stock.
- If you have a mesh ball to hold spices, great - if not, use a piece of cheesecloth tied with twine. You’ll use this to hold the fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns. Add this package to the soup, along with the rest of the spices and flavorings (star anise, cinnamon, chiles, ginger, and green onions. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 hours, covered. If all of that is too difficult, just throw the spices in.
- While the soup is simmering away, make the bread. Mix the flour and baking powder together, add water and knead it together. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or so.
- Heat up a wok or frying pan without oil to medium-high. Take small pieces from the dough and roll them out into circles around 1/3 inch (less than a cm) thick.
- Slap each one onto the wok, let them get brown on each side and then set aside. Like making a tortilla, except without the press and not as thin.
- Throw the noodles and mushrooms into the soup. Serve with cilantro, vinegar and chili sauce as condiments. Break the bread up into the stew as a thickener, like fritos in chili. Yum.
Recipe adapted from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China but Carolyn Phillips and from https://liviblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/yang-rou-pao-mo-recipe.html