This post first appeared on Sift & Simmer in June 2018. Updated Feb 2021.
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you will know that my love for all noodles knows no bounds.
I’m sure if I had it my way, my last meal on Earth would be some type of noodles.
And make that some kind of SPICY noodles.
Especially, these mouthwatering, Xi’an-style Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles.
WHAT ARE SPICY CUMIN LAMB NOODLES?
Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles is a dish from Northern China with lamb meat and Sichuan peppercorn spice mixture, made from a characteristically thick, wide wheat flour noodle.
The thick noodles are also known as “biang biang noodles.”
WHAT ARE BIANG BIANG NOODLES?
The character “biang” is considered one of the most complicated Chinese characters to write, with 58 strokes.
“Biang biang” is said to come from the sound of the noodles being slapped against the table, which is the manner in how the noodles are made.
The “biang biang” noodles are typically hand-made, rustic-looking and broad in shape.
They’re much thicker than wonton or egg noodles.
WHERE DID CUMIN LAMB NOODLES ORIGINATE?
Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles originated from the Xi’an region of China.
Xi’an is the capital city in the Shaanxi province, located in north western China.
Shaanxi cuisine is known for its use of pork/lamb/mutton in its dishes, as well as heavier flavours such as cumin.
Think Chinese food with Muslim influences, which actually dates back to the Tang Dynasty.
WHAT DO THE NOODLES TASTE LIKE?
This Spicy Cumin Lamb noodle dish is spicy and flavourful.
The noodles are thick and chewy, alternating with the crunch from the bean sprouts and onions. In addition, the lamb meat is savoury and mops up all of that fragrant spice mixture.
HOW TO MAKE CUMIN LAMB NOODLES AT HOME
The ground cumin and Sichuan peppercorn spice mixture is the key to flavouring the lamb meat for these noodles.
Spicy, aromatic, and tingly, these noodles are truly flavourful and not for the faint of heart.
WHAT’S IN THE SPICE MIXTURE?
- cumin seed: sometimes confused with caraway, cumin has a earthy, warming flavour that is also used commonly in Mexican and Indian cuisine. Best to use whole cumin seed and grind prior to using.
- Sichuan peppercorn: also known a “mala pepper,” it has a numbing, tingly sensation and is used commonly in Ma Po tofu and Sichuan dishes; it does come in red and green varieties. Again, use whole peppercorn and grind.
- white peppercorn: actually start out as black peppercorns, and have their exterior skin removed after soaking; they can be more potent than their black counterpart.
- fennel seed: is a small lightly green/beige oval seed that is aromatic and has an anise flavour.
- coriander seed: is a small round seed from the coriander/cilantro plant; has a lemony citrus flavour.
This spice mixture is used to marinate the lamb meat, as well as a sprinkled garnish.
The cumin is bold, warming and pungent and the Sichuan peppercorn adds a spicy, tingling feeling to your taste buds.
FOR THE LAMB:
If you have access to thin-sliced lamb meat (hot-pot style), use that. It will save you lots of time!
Otherwise, my tip is to freeze the lamb for 1 hour, and then use a sharp knife to make thin slices.
Marinate the lamb with the spice mixture, as well as some soy sauce and cornstarch and let it sit (to soak in the flavours).
MY CHEAT: USE STORE-BOUGHT THICK-CUT NOODLES
You can make the “biang biang” noodles from scratch.
Or, if you’re like me and always pressed for time, I’ve got a short-cut cheater’s version for you.
If you’re in Canada, I used T&T Supermarket’s broad thick-cut noodles (in the frozen section) for this recipe.
It will save you time and effort, especially if you’re looking to make this for a weeknight meal.
You may be able to find broad/thick-cut noodles at your local Asian grocery store.
DO I NEED TO USE THICK-CUT NOODLES?
To enjoy the full essence of the dish, I highly suggest using thick-cut/broad wheat noodles.
Of course, if you have other wheat noodles on hand, you can substitute with that instead.
WHERE TO FIND THE SPICES?
You can find most of the spices at Asian supermarkets, or try East Indian grocery stores.
HOW TO SERVE CUMIN LAMB NOODLES
Serve the Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles immediately.
Note: Mung bean sprouts do wilt and disintegrate after time, so it’s best to finish the noodles within a day or two.
HOW TO REHEAT THE CUMIN LAMB NOODLES
If you’re not eating them right away, reheat the noodles in the microwave for about 1 minute, until the noodles are hot.
CAN YOU FREEZE THE NOODLE DISH?
If you didn’t add bean sprouts to the dish, I would say it’s OK to freeze.
However, if you add bean sprouts to the noodles, I would not recommend freezing the noodle dish.
OTHER RECIPES YOU MAY LIKE
Be sure to try out these other recipes:
Delicious, chewy, thick noodles doused in a spicy tingly chili oil with shreds of cumin-scented gamey lamb permeating through — this will definitely change the way you look at Chinese noodles.
Let me know if you try this recipe for Xi’an-style Spicy Cumin Lamb noodles! Tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below and tell me your favourite style of noodles. 🙂
Spicy Xi'an-Style Cumin Lamb Noodles
- 2 Tbsp cumin seeds whole
- 1 Tbsp sichuan peppercorns whole
- ¼ tsp white peppercorns whole
- 1 tsp fennel seed whole
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds whole
- ½ lb lamb leg thinly sliced against the grain
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
- 1 Tbsp avocado oil or vegetable oil
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 2 stalks green onion chopped
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
- 1 C bean sprouts washed and drained
- 1 Serrano chili de-seeded, finely chopped, optional
- 1 pkg (600g) thick-cut/broad wheat noodles
- ¼ C chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbsp chopped green onion
- chili oil for serving
Make the spice mixture:
- Place the cumin seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, white peppercorn, fennel and coriander seed into a coffee grinder and blitz until you obtain a fine powder.
- Dump the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
Marinate the lamb meat:
- In a large bowl, place the sliced lamb, 1 tsp cornstarch, ¼ tsp salt, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and 2 Tbsp of the ground cumin powder mixture from above.
- Mix the meat thoroughly. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours.
Cook the noodles:
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add in the thick-cut noodles and cook according to the package directions, about 2-3 minutes.
- Drain the noodles and set aside.
Make the sauce:
- In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, salt, sesame oil and black vinegar. Give it a stir and set aside.
Stir-fry the noodles:
- Heat a wok or large pan with 1 Tbsp avocado oil. Add in the minced garlic, green onion and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Next, add in the sliced marinated lamb and cook, stirring constantly for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the red onions, bean sprouts and Serrano chili and sauté for another minute before adding the noodles.
- Add in the soy sauce mixture. Use a pair of tongs to coat the noodles with the sauce.
- Remove from heat, add a heaping spoonful of chili oil and garnish with chopped cilantro and green onion. Sprinkle with additional ground cumin mixture if desired.
- Serve the cumin lamb noodles immediately.