Sichuan Lamb Noodles
One of my family’s favorite restaurants in Chicago is a Sichuan restaurant in Chinatown. I can’t remember the first time we went there or how we found out about it (I think a family friend took us there?), but until I tried Sichuan food, I did not realize Chinese food wasn’t just soy sauce and fried rice. I’m not going to claim to be an expert in Sichuan or Chinese cooking; the history is very broad and very deep and I’ve only just scratched the surface. However, Sichuan peppercorns are from that region of China and their famous mouth-numbing, mild and floral flavor are nothing like you’ve ever had before.
I love pairing it with the earthy flavors of cumin and coriander for a great balance. The lamb lends a beautiful flavor to this dish, though you’re welcome to use whatever protein you like. Pork and chicken work especially well. The dish also features some cabbage and snap peas, because we all need our vegetables, and it comes together in under 30 mins. It’s a great weeknight dish and you can easily scale it up for a dinner party. I probably make this dish or similar iterations every other week - not only is it easy, it’s also addictive.
And please, don’t skip the Sichuan peppercorns. It’s worth the effort to go to a specialty store or shop online; this dish will be a great introduction to the Sichuan peppercorns.and you will thank me.
2 + 1 tsp oil
12 oz ground lamb
2 spring onions, chopped
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp minced garlic
3-4 cups chopped green cabbage
10-12 sugar snap peas, thinly, diagonally sliced
4 oz noodles, cooked according to the package
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine or dry white wine
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Prepare the spice mix. Heat up a pan and dry roast the spices for 2 mins, or until fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and set aside.
Prepare the noodles according to the package directions (udon, whole wheat spaghetti, or lo mein noodles work well). Remove the noodles gently with a tong and rinse with cold water and set aside. In the same boiling water, blanch the chopped cabbage for 2 mins. Drain the cabbage and set aside.
Heat a wok or a large pan and add the oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the ground lamb to the pan. Break it up into large pieces and spread it around the pan. Leave undisturbed for 4-5 mins. Then, flip the lamb and cook for 3-4 mins on the second side.
Move the meat to one side, add the last tsp of oil to the wok. Add the chopped spring onions, ginger, and garlic and stir fry for 1-2 mins. Then mix in the lamb with the rest of the mixture.
Now, add the ground spices and mix well for 30 seconds-1 min. Add the wine and vinegar and cook for 1-2 mins. Now, add the cabbage into the pan and mix well. Season with salt, if needed.
Lastly, add the noodles into the wok and toss thoroughly. Turn off and remove from the heat. Add the thinly sliced snap peas and toss once more. Serve!