[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
Lamb soup is a common dish in Central China, traditionally served with bread. This is a funky but streamlined take on that soup—and a good way to enjoy some hand-pulled noodles. Using a pressure cooker speeds the process up considerably, and generates a deeply flavorful broth. And the best part? You can use all that tender, collagen-rich lamb to make a tasty and rich shredded meat topping that’s heavy on cumin, dried chilies, and a touch of mala flavor.
Why It Works
- A pressure cooker produces a rich, flavorful broth in far less time than a broth prepared by simmering on the stovetop.
- Searing the lamb before pressure cooking creates a deep, brown stock and tempers the gaminess of the meat.
- Taking a page out of Sho’s chintan shoyu recipe, gently steeping the broth with toasted aromatics after it cooks gives layers of delicate flavor without muddying the overall lamb vibe.
- Mixing tender, rendered lamb meat from the pressure cooker with an intense aromatic oil of lamb fat, garlic, cumin, dried bird’s eye chilies, and Sichuan peppercorns produces a perfect topping for the soup.
- For the Broth:
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds (1.5 to 1.8kg) lamb shanks or lamb neck slices
- 2 tablespoons (18g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; if using table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) Shaoxing wine or dry sherry wine
- 2 quarts (1920ml) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
- 2 cups (480ml) water
- 2 scallions (30g), trimmed and halved
- 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed
- One 2-inch stick cinnamon
- One 1-inch piece ginger, smashed
- 4 star anise pods
- For the Topping:
- 3/4 cup (180ml) canola oil
- 4 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- 8-12 dried bird’s eye chilies (6-10g), coarsely ground
- 2 tablespoons (16g) toasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground, plus extra whole seeds for serving
- 1 tablespoon (4g) Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/3 cup (80ml) dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons (8g) sugar
- For Serving:
- 6 servings hand-pulled noodles (lamian) or store-bought lamian or ramen noodles (see note)
- 4 scallions, sliced thinly
- 8 fresh cilantro sprigs, cut into 1-inch pieces
For the Broth: Sprinkle lamb evenly on all sides with salt and place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
In a stovetop pressure cooker set over medium-high heat or in an electric pressure cooker set to sauté mode, heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil until smoking. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 8 minutes; transfer to a heatproof bowl. Pour off fat in pressure cooker into a heatproof bowl and reserve. Return cooker to heat (or sauté mode), stir in wine, and cook, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, until alcohol has cooked off, about 30 seconds. Stir in chicken stock and water. Return lamb to pot along with any accumulated juices.
Lock pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat. Once cooker has reached high pressure, cook for 40 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure (if using a stovetop pressure cooker; electric ones will automatically regulate the heat and pressure level).
Depressurize the cooker using the quick-release method, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into clean heatproof container, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; transfer lamb to work surface. When lamb is cool enough to handle, separate meat from bones, discarding bones.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil in now-empty pressure cooker over medium heat (or using an electric cooker’s sauté mode) until shimmering. Add scallions, garlic, ginger, and star anise and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in strained broth, bring to boil, and simmer until fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt.
For the Topping: Meanwhile, add oil, reserved lamb fat, and minced garlic to medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and cook until garlic is fragrant and just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chilies, cumin, Sichuan peppercorn, and white pepper. Let mixture cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in dark soy sauce and sugar. Gently stir in reserved lamb meat until lightly shredded and incorporated. Season with salt.
To Serve: Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard scallions, garlic, ginger, and star anise pods from broth. Bring large pot of unsalted water to boil over high heat. If making your own hand-pulled noodles, prepare them now; otherwise, proceed with cooking store-bought noodles. Place in pot of boiling water, stirring gently with chopsticks or tongs to prevent sticking. Add about 1 1/2 cups (360ml) hot broth to serving bowls.
When noodles are cooked, drain thoroughly with fine-mesh strainer or noodle basket, shaking off as much excess water as possible, then place noodles in each bowl of hot broth. Stir noodles with chopsticks or tongs, then lift and fold noodles over. Spoon 1/2 cup shredded lamb mixture with some of its sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately.
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