I’ve decided to start writing up a few recipes for the most delicious, interesting, and representative dishes that I come across on my travels. Some will be essentially impossible to cook with the equipment and ingredients available at home, but hopefully they should provide a flavour (sorry, had to) of the places I’ve visited in a way that has been lacking so far. I’ll probably miss out a huge amount of the cuisine of the cultures I’ve visited; this is intended to just be a small selection (and also partially act as a reminder for myself to try cooking them when I get back).
I’ll backtrack and offer a couple for the areas I’ve already covered, but first up I’ll write up an example from Xi’an, as it is delicious, and actually relatively simple to cook. Give it a try!
Yang Rou Pao Muo (羊肉泡沫)
A signature dish of Xi’an
A filling soup, this consists of a piece of thick, chewy bread that is broken up by hand, and covered in a mutton and noodle soup. The bread absorbs much of the soup, making chopsticks possible, but a little tricky. Served with chili and pickled garlic to add separately- I added lots of chili.
I’m cheating with this recipe, taking it verbatim from the excellent Sunflower Food Galore blog. It can be found here.
Yang Rou Pao Mo consists of several parts, the soup (stock), the meat after making the stock, the bread, the noodles and dried vegetables and the final part is all the garnishes and sauces. The preparation is not complicated, it just takes some time to simmer the soup. I have seen some recipes which require 8 – 12 hrs simmering time for the lamb (mainly cooking in bulk like in restaurants), I find 2 – 2.5hrs is about right for home cooking. The bread is easy, normally just flour and water although I find it a bit too dense without a leavening agent and I prefer to add a little baking powder to make the breads lighter, easier to tear and easier/quicker to absorb the soup. This bread can be made well in advance. The other ingredients involve soaking, cutting and/or chopping, all can be prepared in advance. The final assembly and cooking only takes minutes.
This recipe is enough for 4 people.
A. Lamb Soup (stock)
1 pc of lamb shoulder (or any cheaper cut but meaty piece) about 800g – 1kg
some lamb bones (optional if you have any)
2.4 – 2.5 litres of water
1 thumb size ginger, sliced
2 stalks of spring onion
3 – 4 star anise
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 pcs of cassia bark (about 5 – 6cm)
1 Chinese cardamom (chao guo), if you have any
3 – 4 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
B. Flat Bread, this qty made about 10 pcs
500g plain flour (all purpose)
1/2 – 3/4 tsp baking powder
225 – 235ml water
C. Additional ingredients with soup
2 small bundles or about 80g dried glass noodles (mung bean thread or fun see) (粉絲)
handful of dried lily buds (金針 or 黄花菜)
few large pieces woodear (木耳)
D. Seasoning for the soup
Light soy to taste
a little chicken bouillon powder (optional)
salt to taste
dash of Chinese cooking wine
dash of Chinkiang black rice vinegar (optional)
some boiled lamb meat (after making the stock), sliced
2 – 3 stalks spring onion, chopped
small handful of coriander, chopped
some chilli oil
some chilli sauce (plain or with garlic)
some sweet pickled garlic (or fresh if no pickled is available)
few drops of roasted sesame oil
- Make the stock. Put the water into a stock pot, add the lamb (and bones if using). Heat at medium and start boiling from cold. When the water is boiling, turn heat down to medium low and continue simmering without stirring. You will see scum beginning to form on the surface. Let this boil for about 10 – 15 minutes, and at the same time skim off the scum when you see enough of it to remove. When no more scum is forming add all the spices and spring onion, turn the heat down to lowest, cover with lid and simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours till the meat is tender but not falling apart. When done remove the meat, cover lightly to let steam escape and leave it to cool. Cut meat into thin slices- easier to do when it is completely cooled. The spices in the stock can be removed by a small sieve. There will be some fat floating on the liquid; if you mind you can skim it off. I never do because there isn’t much as I normally use reasonably lean lamb shoulder. Traditional recipe adds extra lamb dripping to the stock before serving.
- To make the flat bread, mix a little baking powder with the flour then add water and mix. The dough should be quite stiff. Leave it to rest without kneading for about 20 – 30min. After resting the dough is much easier to knead and becoming smoother. Roll the dough into a log shape and cut into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten it to round disc about 8mm thick. The bread is ok to go straight onto the griddle, but if you’d like to shape the flat bread a little bit more fancy and traditional, lightly push with a knife against the edge of the bread forward and backward while gently holding the bread with one hand. This is to heighten the thickness of the bread around the edge, so the centre thickness is about 8mm and the edge is about 1cm. See slideshow below.
- Put the ‘mo’ bread on a griddle pan without any oil and cook until browned on both sides. Remove and wrap with a clean tea towel and leave to cool.
- Soak the glass noodles, woodears and dried lily buds. Rinse/clean all after soaking. Drain noodles and set aside. Check the lily buds for woody stem at one end, remove. Thinly slice the woodear. Chop the spring onion, coriander and fresh garlic. If using pickled garlic no preparation is needed.
- Just before serving, heat the soup to boiling. Season soup with light soy, salt and/or chicken bouillon stock powder. Add dash of cooking wine and black vinegar to taste.
- Tear the bread into tiny pieces, about the size of your little fingernail, allow 2 – 2.5 pieces of bread per person.
- Now the final step is to cook the bread in soup with the glass noodles, woodears and lily buds. You can do this by individual portion or the same pot for all. When the soup is boiling, add woodears, lily buds and torn bread together. Simmer till bread is softened and swollen then add the glass noodles and cook for another minute till piping hot. Ladle into serving bowl/s.
- Get the sliced meat, garnishes, oils and sauces ready.
- Arrange sliced lamb meat on top. Sprinkle on some chopped spring onion, coriander and fresh garlic if using. Drizzle on some some chilli oil, sesame oil and add a dollop of chilli sauce. If using pickled garlic serve this with the soup on the side dish.