19 September 2011

Torn bread & lamb soup (yang rou pao mo - 羊肉泡饃)

As with the recent pork tacos, my interest is often piqued by recipes on blogs. Having had a bash at Xinjiang's signature dish Da Pan Ji I thought this soup on the excellent Sunflower Food Galore blog looked like another good idea in terms of that area's cuisine. However, upon reading more closely I realised it is from Xian and not Xinjiang. A totally different part of the country. What fooled me was the lamb and flat-bread, usually associated with the bit of China bordering the central Asian states. I need to investigate fully. 

Anyhow, it appealed. An aromatic lamb stock + torn bread  + some extras is a great combination that recalls other classic bread using soups such as ribollita. Why waste stale bread when you can make it in to wicked soup?

wood-ears and lilly buds

So, I won't repeat the recipe as it's in the original link. First you need to make the stock. I used lamb scrag for cheapness and savour. The stock is flavoured with the staples of Chinese broths - cooking wine, ginger, spring-onions, fennel seeds, star anise, cassia and false (or Chinese) cardamom (chao guo). It's a similar mix to that which flavoured my sour fish soup and partridge congee. It'll need a good 2 hours +. Remove the bones, pick them over and reserve the meat.

The stock may look rather disagreeable whilst bubbling away, coloured as it is by weird scum from the lamb bones. Once it is strained (muslin is pretty much essential here I'm afraid) it becomes much more attractive.




Next you need to get everything ready to add to the stock. For my sins I went for pittas over the home-made bread option. Wood ears (which resemble human skin quite creepily) and lily buds need a soak. Lilly buds were new on me (available at the super, and ever dependable Yu Xiao in Dalston) and have a nice, mild flavour and pleasing, giving texture.

Chop you bread into bits and chop some spring onion and garlic. When the stock is ready add the bread, chopped wood ear, spring onion, a little garlic and the lily buds. Flavour the stock with some light soy sauce, cooking wine and Chinkiang vinegar. When the garlic has lost some rawness add the last parts - the lamb pieces, coriander, chilli oil and seasame oil to taste. Serve.

This soup has a lot going on for it. The bread is amazing, slowly moving from crisp, through pliable and limp into mushy territory. All enjoyable states for soup based bread I think. The scrag meat is incredible tender and flavoursome. However, I'm not sure I quite nailed the stock. It was nice but not exactly bursting with flavour so I think next time I'll cook the bones for longer and maybe at a slightly higher temperature.


  1. I'm not sure cooking the bones for longer does much good - I was told you'll get all there is to get from bones after 3 hours. Maybe more bones needed for the same amount of liquid?

  2. I've got some chicken carcasses sitting in the freezer, do you think I could do a similar thing using chicken stock?

  3. Well done! For more flavour I think you need some more meat. Did you skim the scum when it started to form during the first 20 - 30 minutes.

    Greedy Fork, yes you can use chicken stock if you wish but lamb is traditional.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I think this would be very nice with chicken, or pork ribs/hock (although less traditional?). Maybe I need to put some extra bones in, I can probably get them in the Turkish shop.

    Sunflower, is this eaten in Xinjiang region?

  5. I am not sure Oliver. This Yang Rou Pao Mo originated from the Shaanxi Province (Xian is the Capital). It's quite famous snack has spread to many other areas in China, I reckon this can be found in Xinjiang too.

  6. In China (where I live), you can really only find yang rou pao mo in the xinjiang restaurants. I've never seen it in Xi'an, actually. The "bread" that they put in the soup isn't actually bread, but they use the dough they use for the noodles (mian). They roll it out really thin and fry it. Most places also put tomatoes and kale or other kinds of leafy greens in it. And...you want flavor? I know this goes against western health standards...but add some MSG. Proven to increase "tastiness." Mmm...this makes me want some yang rou pao mo now. If only it weren't 10:30 at night...

    And I saw you mention da pan ji. Good, but you should try and look for a good da pan yang rou recipe. The same basic principle, but they flavors they incorporate are slightly different. SOOOOO good.

  7. Thanks for that - really interesting. I'll bear in mind the tomatoes and kale thing if I make this again. I did have a bash at Da pan ji yeah, was pretty good....