Flavour, flavour and flavour! These rich, delicious and easy spicy cumin lamb noodles are exactly that.
The noodles are tasty, bouncy and delightfully chewy. Lamb, perfectly seasoned, tender and bursting with flavour. This is a fantastic weeknight dinner to make that's both satisfying and comforting.
Adjust the spiciness to your liking with Chinese chilli oil and chilli flakes, powder or fresh chilli.
- Lamb shoulder meat - has a great marbling of fat throughout the meat which makes it taste so good! No extra marinating time nor the need for the 'velveting technique' (see my beef noodle stir fry to learn about this technique) to tenderise, it's tender as is and just needs a good seasoning! I buy the trimmed, boneless shoulder meat.
- Chilli oil - adds heat and more importantly, aroma. Opt for homemade Sichuan chilli oil, they're easy to make, very aromatic and definitely better than any store-bought versions!
- Chilli powder/chilli flakes - option, adjust to your liking.
- Shaoxing wine - cooking rice wine that is a staple in Chinese cooking, adds depth and complexity to dishes. Suitable substitutes include mirin (Japanese rice wine) and dry sherry. Otherwise, no big deal if left out completely.
- Dark soy sauce - adds colour to the noodles, has lower sodium content compared to normal soy sauce and is richer in flavour. Can use normal soy sauce instead.
- Cumin seeds and powder - can use either or both. Cumin seeds release their aroma when stir-fried with oil and I quite enjoy the tiny pops of cumin flavour when eating the noodles.
Noodles to buy
If you've had cumin lamb noodles at a Chinese restaurant before, you'll know that the noodles are usually freshly made, using the hand-pulled technique. Hence, the name 'hand-pulled noodles' ('la mian').
To achieve the wide, flat noodle shape, the dough is cut into a thick, rectangular shape then pulled and smacked onto the work surface. Smacking pulled noodles onto the work surface creates a sound similar to a 'biang'! Thus, this type of noodle is also called 'biang biang noodles'.
For the sake of convenience and simplicity, most of the time, it's just more realistic to buy noodles instead of making them from scratch. That's a recipe for another time.
Head to your local Asian grocery store and buy fresh noodles in the fridge section (usually in the same area as dumpling wrappers).
Cumin lamb noodles are typically made with flat, wide noodles as shown in the photos in this post. The noodles are called various names, depending on the brand. They can be labelled as 'la mian', 'lei mein', 'tou chow noodles' (like the pack I got in the picture above) or 'dao xiao mian'.
You can also use thick, spaghetti-looking noodles too, like the noodles on the right-hand side in the picture above.
Just like any noodles and pasta, once cooked, they do expand and increase in size a little so don't worry if the noodles look a little narrow before cooking.
The art of stir-frying
There are three key elements to a good, flavourful stir fry.
- Heat - when stir-frying, it's all about cooking on high heat to generate 'wok hei' which is translated as 'air of the wok'. Wok hei is super important to create depth, complexity and flavour in a dish through caramelisation. Remember, colour = flavour! This technique is even more useful when cooking dishes with simple ingredients like my 15-minute Cantonese fried noodles to create depth of flavour. So get the wok or pan nice and hot before adding ingredients, just like cooking a steak. You want to hear that sizzle!
- Speed - one of the great things about making a stir fry is that they don't take much time to cook. There is art behind the timing of when certain ingredients are added to ensure maximum flavour. This means everything happens quickly which brings me to the last point. Preparation.
- Preparation - these spicy lamb cumin noodles are done before you know it so it's crucial to be prepared. Before stir-frying, season the meat, wash and cut the vegetables, prepare the noodles and have all of the ingredients laid out in front of you. This will save you from fumbling through the cupboards halfway through cooking looking for the dark soy sauce!
By keeping these elements in mind, you'll be able to create tasty, flavourful dishes like my Chinese green bean stir fry with caramelised pork, prawn fried rice and Taiwanese-style vermicelli stir fry!
The best way to approach this spicy cumin lamb noodles recipe is to start by preparing everything first.
Prepare ingredients for stir-frying
To start, season the lamb.
Thinly slice the lamb shoulder meat just like in the picture below. Ideally, once cooked, you want the lamb to be of similar width and thickness to the noodles. Bear in mind, meat shink a little once cooked.
In a large bowl, combine lamb slices with minced garlic, minced ginger, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, cumin powder, coriander powder, salt, pepper and oil.
With a clean hand, massage the seasoning into the meat for about 30 seconds. This step will help tenderise the meat and allow the seasoning to penetrate the meat nicely. Making it taste absolutely delicious!
Pro tip: use a zester to grate garlic and ginger. It's quick and much easier than finely chopping with a knife. If you don't have a zester, a small grater works too!
Set the seasoned lamb aside.
Now, cook fresh noodles according to the packet instructions.
Usually, the noodles take around 3 to 4 minutes to cook for an al dente texture. Once cooked, transfer the noodles into a colander and run the noodles under cold running water. This will stop the cooking process and keep the noodles bouncy, chewy consistency which is exactly what we want in a noodle stir fry!
To prevent the noodles from sticking together, drizzle them with a little cooking oil and mix well.
Lastly, take out all of the condiments and remaining ingredients required for this recipe onto the kitchen counter.
Wash and chop vegetables and get all of your utensils out so everything's within arm's reach and in sight.
Now, you're ready.
Preheat the wok (or a large frying pan if using) over high heat. Drizzle with a little oil.
If you're using a carbon steel wok or a stainless steel frying pan, it is crucial to get it really hot so that water droplets bounce off the wok's surface. This will prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom of the wok.
Lay seasoned lamb into the wok in a single layer so that every single piece gets direct heat from the wok. This is key to good caramelisation of the meat which means flavour!
Let the meat sizzle for about 1 minute on high heat then flip and brown the other side. Bits of charring on the meats are what you're looking for. Transfer the meat onto a plate and set aside.
Without washing the wok, saute capsicum, onions and garlic with a little oil over high heat. Once the vegetables have softened a little and start to caramelise, add cumin powder. Stir fry for a further 30 seconds to 'wake up' the cumin powder.
Now, add the cooked lamb back into the wok with all of the juices (flavour!).
Saute quickly for about 30 seconds to combine.
Add cooked noodles, dark soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Toss the noodles over high heat for about 1 to 2 minutes. The goal is to allow as much of the noodles as possible to get direct heat from the wok to create caramelisation. Just like making my Chinese sausage fried rice or prawn fried rice and in those dishes case, direct heat onto each grain of rice.
This is how stir-fries taste so delicious! It's all about 'wok hei'!
Lastly, drizzle the cumin lamb noodles with some Chinese chilli oil and chilli powder, flakes or fresh chilli (if using). Add more or less of these to your taste.
Toss the noodles through.
To finish off, turn the heat off and scatter in finely chopped fresh coriander. This not only adds freshness to the noodles, it is also deliciously aromatic!
Just before serving, give the noodles a taste and add more black pepper or salt to your liking if necessary.
Pro tip: if you don't love the taste of fresh coriander, use finely chopped spring onions (green onions) instead for that uplift of freshness. It does make a difference!
That's it! Addictive, tasty cumin lamb noodles with big flavours done in 30 minutes!
Useful tips and tricks
- Massage the seasoning into the lamb for extra flavoursome and tender meat. Since there is good marbling of fat in lamb shoulder meat, the full 'velveting technique' (more detail and how-to are in my beef noodle stir fry recipe) is not needed for this recipe. No extra marinate time is necessary either! Speedy dinner? You bet!
- Preheat the wok on high heat before adding meat to get a good sear and caramelisation. Remember, colour = flavour!
- To double the portion of this recipe, cook in two batches. Stir fries and 'wok hei' (if you missed it, scroll up to read more about what it is and the importance of wok hei) work best when cooking in small quantities. The more stuff there is in the wok, the less chance of direct heat is available for each individual piece. No wok hei = less flavour.
- Loosen cooked noodles. Even after rinsing the cooked noodles with cold water and mixing them with a little oil, the noodles can still get a little stuck together (especially if left for a while). To loosen it up just before stir-frying, rinse the noodles one more time under the tap in a colander, give it a shake from side to side and drain well.
The second best option would be beef! Otherwise, pork or chicken will work too.
Up to 4 days in an airtight container. If you won't get around to it by then, best place it in the freezer which lasts for about 2 months.
Yes you can, simply cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. However, fresh noodles yield the best result in terms of texture (we want that 'QQ' texture) and mouthfeel!
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below.
I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
Cumin Lamb Noodles
- 250 g / ½ pound fresh noodles store-bought (note 1)
- 250 g / ½ pound lamb shoulder meat cut into thin, wide strips
- 1 red capsicum sliced into strips, aka bell pepper
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon oil neutral-tasting, extra for noodles
- 1 tablespoon Homemade Chinese chilli oil or store-bought
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder flakes or fresh, optional
- 1 cup fresh coriander finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ tablespoon oil neutral-tasting
Prepare the ingredients
- In a large bowl, combine the sliced lamb with lamb seasoning ingredients. Mix well (best with a clean hand to massage the seasoning into the meat) (note 2). Set aside.
- Cook noodles according to packet instructions (usually around 3 to 4 minutes). Once cooked to al dente, drain and rinse noodles with cold water under the tap to stop the cooking process (and keep that delightful chewy texture!). Drizzle with a little oil to stop the noodles from sticking together, mix and set aside in a colander.
Stir fry the lamb noodles
- Preheat a wok or large frying pan on high heat (note 3). Spread seasoned lamb onto the wok in a single layer with ½ tablespoon of oil. Sear the meat on high heat for about 1 minute then flip and sear the other side for a further minute until the meat is just cooked with caramelisation. Transfer onto a plate and set aside.
- In the same wok (no need to wash), add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil and saute onions, garlic and capsicum. After ~2 to 3 minutes, add cumin powder and saute for a further 30 seconds.
- Add sauteed lamb slices (with juices) back into the wok with the vegetables. Stir fry to combine then add cooked noodles (note 4), dark soy sauce, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Toss the noodles on high heat for ~1½ minutes.
- Add Chinese chilli oil and chilli (if using) and toss for a further minute. Turn the heat off, scatter in coriander and mix well. Serve whilst it's hot!