Chinese Lamb Noodle Soup is humble comfort food, perfect for a chilly day. In the Chinese culture, certain foods such as lamb, cinnamon, anise, fennel seeds, garlic, ginger, scallion, and chili, are believed to be “warming.” Warming foods, also referred to as “yang” foods, are thought to add heat to the body, helping to improve circulation and stave off colds. The opposite of warming foods or yang foods are “cooling” foods or “yin” foods. When your body is too yin, you need to balance it out with yang foods.
Growing up in a Chinese family, I remember my grandmother making certain tonic soups with strange dried roots. My dad used to make me pigs feet cooked in vinegar after I gave birth to each of my kids. I had heard of “warming” and “cooling” foods, but never thought much about it until recently. I’ve been reading more on this “yin” and “yang” way of eating to balance out our bodies, and it is quite fascinating.
With winter coming, and the weather turning colder, I am craving soups, especially Asian noodle soups. Compared to heavier stews and soups I normally crave in the winter, Asian noodle soups are nourishing, hearty, and surprisingly light.
Asian Noodle Soup Components:
- Soup Base – chicken, chicken/pork, beef, lamb, anchovy, or dashi
- Vegetables – bok choy, napa cabbage, cabbage, spinach, carrots, zucchini, bean sprouts, mushrooms
- Protein – chicken, pork, beef, seafood (e.g., clams, shrimp, squid), eggs, tofu
- Noodles – cellophane (mung bean) noodles, sweet potato starch noodles, soba noodles, udon noodles, rice noodles, somen noodles, ramen
- Aromatics – ginger, garlic, scallions, star anise, cinnamon stick, Sichuan peppercorns, Korean chili pepper flakes
- Garnishes – scallion, fresh herbs (e.g., cilantro, Thai basil, mint), sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, white pepper powder, chili oil
Use your imagination to come up with your own version of an Asian Noodle Soup. It’s a complete meal in a bowl.
This Chinese Lamb Noodle Soup contains many “warming” spices. Sitting down with a bowl of this is like wrapping yourself with a blanket and sitting by a beautiful fire. It will take the chill out of your bones.
This Chinese Lamb Noodle Soup is especially aromatic due to all the warm spices – star anise, cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, garlic and scallions. I made the lamb stock in an Instant Pot, but you can also just cook it on the stove.
While the stock is cooking, you can prepare the noodle soup ingredients. There are a few ingredients that you may not be familiar with, such as cellophane noodles and cloud ear fungus. I agree the names of these ingredients might sound strange, but they are common Chinese ingredients that you should be able to find at a local Asian market.
Cellophane noodles are actually made from mung bean starch. They are sometimes called glass noodles or mung bean noodles. They usually come in individual packs that weight 50 grams each.
Cellophane noodles need to be soaked for 15-20 minutes before cooking. The soaked noodles only take a few minutes to cook.
Cloud ear fungus are sometimes called cloud ear mushrooms, and actually grow on trees. They come dried, and need to be rehydrated. Cloud ear fungus are similar to wood ear fungus, but are more delicate and not as thick. If you can’t find cloud ear fungus, you can use wood ear fungus. I buy compressed cloud ear fungus, which take up very little space.
Cloud ear fungus reconstitute in water in about 1/2 an hour. Once soaked, cloud ear fungus expand dramatically. When cooked, cloud ear fungus have a chewy, slightly crunchy texture. They don’t have much flavor on their own, but are wonderful in soups for textural contrast.
The assembly of this soup for serving is very easy once you have the lamb broth, and have soaked the cellophane noodles and cloud ear fungus. The noodles, cloud ear fungus and cabbage are cooked in the lamb broth. Then everything is divided among the serving bowls. I like white pepper powder, minced scallions and hot chili oil on top of mine.
Chinese Lamb Noodle Soup
- 2 pounds lamb shanks
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 4 white cardamon pods
- 1 black cardamon pod cracked
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 scallions crushed, cut into 2" pieces
- 1 slice ginger peeled, 1" thick
- 1 clove garlic peeled, sliced
- 1 teaspoon Shaoshing wine
- 10 grams dried cloud ear fungus
- 100 grams dried cellophane noodles 2 packs
- 4 cups green cabbage thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- white pepper powder to taste
- minced scallions for garnish
- chili oil if desired
Place lamb shanks, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, fennel seeds, white and black cardamon pods, cinnamon, scallions, ginger, garlic and wine in Instant Pot. Add water to maximum fill line (~ 14 cups).
Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Let pressure naturally release.
Remove lamb and let cool; remove meat from bones and shred.
Lamb Noodle Soup
Soak wood ear mushrooms in warm water for 1/2 hour. Drain.
Soak cellophane noodles in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain.
Bring 8 cups of Lamb Broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add cabbage and wood ear mushrooms. Cook 3-4 minutes until cabbage softens but is still has some bite.
Add cellophane noodles. Cook 3-4 minutes. Add salt, seasoning to taste.
To serve, divide noodles, cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, and lamb among four bowls. Ladle soup on top. Sprinkle with minced scallions on top. Sprinkle some white pepper on top, and drizzle with chili oil, if desired.
Adapted from Xi'an Famous Foods
For more Asian Noodle Soups, you might like: