cumin Tag

THE PHYSICALLY AND FLAVOR-MASSIVE, BEIJING SUPERMARKET FRIED CHICKEN

SAVORY JUICES GREASED WITH RENDERED FAT RUSHED ARDENTLY OUT OF THE MEAT… A NOSTRIL FULL OF AROMA AS A MIXTURE OF CUMIN, CHILI, GARLIC, AND THE IRRESISTABLE SMELL OF CRISPED CHICKEN SKINS SENT ME INTO AN ANGRY SPIRAL OF REGRETS AND RESENTMENTS

In AA they say, there are twelve steps to recovery.  Well, this fried chicken is my Step Nine. 

Specifically, if you (hopefully) aren’t familiar, this is a stage where the recoveree make direct amends to people whom they had harmed, wherever possible, as a part of the process to obtain emotional balance and closure.

So here I stand, almost two years into my recovery from six traumatic years in Beijing, I am ready to talk about this fried chicken.

To start from the beginning, I first saw these fried chickens inside a supermarket a few blocks away from our apartment in Beijing.  Calling that place a supermarket is a gross exaggeration whereas a glorified convenience store would be more appropriate, but for six long years, I passed by that supermarket about once a week on a conservative average, and I consistently dismissed the peculiar stall that was tucked in a dingy corner by the entrance with a sign that read, “Meixiang Fried Chicken“.

Peculiar indeed, not because there was a random fried chicken stall inside a suspicious convenience store, but that as ambiguous as it was, almost everyday around 3pm, there would be a line cued up at its greasy window, as long and meandering as my bafflement.  Typically, a line exceeding 15% of the total crowd-size stretching the entire block, is a mathematic proof good enough to send me into investigation, but feeling prejudice towards this entire city in general, I thought either this fried chicken was an understated treasure, or these people were out of their minds.

For six years, I went firmly with the latter.

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CUMIN LAMB AND HAND-SMASHED NOODLE SOUP

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FOR THIS WEEKEND….

I’m quickly leaving you with this recipe today because I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.  In fact, it is precisely because I’ve already said everything I wanted about them in my previous posts.  This recipe is a good example of how I, and you as well, can utilize all the recipes on the site fluently in combination, to draw to a different conclusion.  This particular dish is mainly a soup-version from my xi’an famous cumin lamb and hand-smashed noodles, but it draws from three different recipes that have somewhat became a staple of my own kitchen.   Plus a little further processing and tweaks, it can become something that scratches an entirely different itch.  So here, whether you are a dry noodle or soup noodle kinda person, or both, you can now travel between two worlds.

  
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MY XIAN FAMOUS SPICY CUMIN LAMB HAND-SMASHED NOODLES

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ONCE YOU GET THERE, WHATEVER IT TAKES FOR YOU TO GET THERE,

THE REST IS AS EASY AS BIANG

Does this recipe really need introduction?  If you have been enjoying, following, or even just been seduced from afar by the unstoppable uprise of this basement-stall to now 10 flourishing locations throughout New York, you would not be unfamiliar with the signature dish, from Xian Famous Foods.  The spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped (biang biang) noodles.

I have certainly been a fan.  More precisely, I have been enjoy Xian Famous Foods for the past few years, without actually stepping a foot inside any of their 10 locations.  Because I’ve been here, in Beijing, where “Xian famous foods” are not known as the name of a trending chain-restaurants, but in fact, a genre.  Those 4 Chinese characters almost recognized as their “logo”, are actually common here as a phrase that describes the local street foods of the city Xi-An.  Kind of like having a restaurant called “Texas BBQ”, or “Chicago Hotdogs”.  And on top of the usual suspects of cold skin noodles, cumin lamb burger (called “rou-jia-mo”), lamb offal soup… there is of course, the biang biang.

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CUMIN SPARE RIBS

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DON’T GIVE ME THE BULLSHIT, IN THE END, DO I TASTE FREAKING-ABSOLUTELY AWESOME?


  

To be honest, I don’t think I have ever truly enjoyed BBQ ribs.  It has always been, to me at least, more enjoyable as an idea – the smile of the pit-master, the black smoker hissing under the Southern sun, the sense of all American lifestyle – than in actuality.  In actuality, I’ve been waiting my whole life so far, to be impressed, turned, proven wrong, by something that I so desperately would like to grow more fond of.  But in the end, picking at a pile of ribs that are often borderline dry and overly sweet, I always ended up wondering if I have missed something.

This isn’t to say, the rib’s problem.  In fact, any form of scanty meats adhering to a disproportionate amount of bones, that requires bare hands and  sheer fangs to tear down, I’m there.  In fact, the rib-hole that had been ironically left hollow in my long years spent in holy BBQ-land, was immediately filled and nurtured within a month after I moved here, by the most unlikely of all cuisines.  A Northern Chinese creation called, cumin spare ribs.  Typically you wouldn’t think the word “mild” is the most associated vocabulary for American BBQ ribs, where plenty of spices and smokes coincide in effort to achieve the opposite.  But when put side by side with Chinese’s answer to finger-licking ribs, that’s exactly how they will appear.

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OLD BEIJING LAMB SKEWER

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THERE are many virtues about Beijing, and as far as I’m concerned, they are all true.  The widely studied, highly evolved lung-capacity of its residence to withstand extremely volatile air molecules is among the most celebrated.  The profound unity and rewardless participation in the national sport of competitive spitting, for god and country, is none but true patriotism.  Then, perhaps the most famous although not as extraordinary as the former points, that it’s true, these fine citizens do know how to roast a damn duck.

Like actually actually.

But the most extraordinary things are those that go unadvertised.  The best-kept secret, the silent do-er in this fine metropolis is tucked away in every unknown streets and corners, and I mean every streets and corners.  It’s the most note-worthy and representative of Beijing street-food scene, and as far as I’m concerned, it is this word – 串.

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WORLD’S EASIEST SEXY RACK

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” I’M BRINGING SEXY RACK “

The 6-4 carnival stretches on… There are bloody evidence of its squanders everywhere, the skin and bones that the beast chewed and spat out, all over my jabbed and crippled internet. My brain is still scrambled from yesterday’s epic, titanic emotional meltdown. My eyes staring into the blinding whiteness on my browser in a futile effort to locate all the premeditatedly murdered URL. There are broken signals of my poisoned VPN. They occasionally wink back at me… I need to get a new antivirus software to scan my PC, got knows what’s on it! If you’re looking for a safe PC, you could check out websafetyadvice.com for any extra info.

But this is not where I put my head down. Even if it means I have to sit right here, on this uncomfortably designed chair that stings my ass, that I have to upload each and every single one of these photos, every fucking, excruciating hour at a time, then so be it. I’m going to get this done. That’s right you nasty spitting beast,

I’m bring sexy rack.

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This isn’t just a recipe for a roasted rack of lamb. When I first discovered its method – witnessing how Thomas Keller gave life and colour to a humongous chunk of rib-roast, too large and uniformly shaped to submit to any traditional browning techniques – it was a revelation. It meant beyond what the specific recipe was designed for. It meant that from then on, the path to a piece of meat’s medium-rare doneness, as well as a gorgeously charred surface, can be walked separately.

How many times have I tried to imitate a steak-house rib-eye at home – the kind that shimmers over its deeply caramelised crust with a properly pink and bloody interior – but instead found myself scrubbing down a grease-raped kitchen with the smoke-detector still screaming from the imposed horror, and worse, all for a flap of unevenly and under-browned meat sobbing over its own greyish and overcooked body? Too. Many. Times. But it could, and has, all stopped here. The moment when I stopped pretending that my kitchen could conjure the same level of scorching heat as a professional kitchen. The moment I realised my vent-hood couldn’t even eliminate cigarette smoke let alone the volcano clouds erupting from my cast-iron pan. Th moment when I discovered, that this could all be done, with none of these silly ruckus.

The answer is a standard, dependable blow-torch.

N…no… what, what is that you’re waving at me? That impotent little girlish thingy that came with the impulsive creme brulee-set I picked you picked up on your way to get shower-curtains through Bed Bath and Beyond? N… no, I’m talking about an actual, standard, torch burner that goes on top of a butane canister. It’s the ultimate fixer-upper in the kitchen, the air-brusher to make up for other cookery’s shortcomings. In fact it’s the first thing I would recommend if you ask me what’s a must-have in my line of gadgets. Get, an actual blow-torch. What it’s able to do, among other things, is that it can apply beautiful, glorious, and most importantly, even browning and caramelising to any specimen of meat no matter how big or small, or how uniformly and awkwardly shaped.

Such as, oh how coincidentally~ a rack of lamb.

You can’t brown a rack of lamb evenly no matter if it’s on the stove… in the oven… over the grill… under the broiler… or by whatever means you can think of (unless you’re prepared to deep-fry it in a bucket, in that case, I solute you). You just can’t. Especially with it’s variably thin strip of meat which, by the time you’re done nuking it, could have been disastrously overcooked. I didn’t say it will. I said it could, and uncertainly isn’t something I’d like to season with my pricy cut of meat. Especially when “precision” comes with so little effort. The thing with a blow-torch is, you can easily apply intense heat that chars the surface beautiful without penetrating deeper into the part where it deserves a gentler treatment, a treatment say, a slow and tender roast inside a warm oven until every section of the meat is brought to the same, even level of pinkish and juicy doneness. Almost sous-vede! Then after a proper, beauty-resting, you can give this rack another spanking of heat to get it hot again, without affecting the interior doneness of course. You rub its cheeks with a kiss of Dijon mustards, and pad it with a thick cake of spice-crust made with ground cumin and fresh mints. A few more flakes of sea salts before introduction… curtains down… and it’s show time.

Hey, nobody would think that this sexiness came without dropping a sweat amidst the summer? I say, that’s at least one thing to be cheered for, if you were me.

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Serves: 2 ~ 3 people

I have done steaks before with the same method, but a rack of lamb has even more reasons to benefit from it (evenly more awkwardly shaped). This is a typical 7-ribs lamb rack that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams (31.7 oz ~ 38.8 oz). It doesn’t really matter how big the lamb-rack is, the cooking method is exactly the same. And you can be really flexible about the herb/spice rub that goes on top. If you are not a big fan of fresh mint and cumin, feel free to substitute with parsley or etc.

Please DO NOT use those mini-torches that come with a creme brulee-set or something. They are only as good as a cigarette lighter. This is the exact torch-burner that I use, which is comparatively economical and practical. It goes on top of any butane fuel canister that you can buy almost anywhere, and each canister will last a very long time.

A note to pay attention to during roasting is that, the internal temperature will continue to climb about 8~10ºF/5ºC, after the lamb’s removed from the oven. So you have to calculate that into the desired doneness. 130~140ºF/55~60ºC is a perfectly pink, medium-rare. Anything else, I do not endorse.


Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack of lamb that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams
  • 1 ~ 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ~ 3 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • Herbs and spice rub:
    • 3 tbsp of finely chopped fresh mint
    • 2 tbsp of ground cumin
    • 1 tbsp of chill flakes
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

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Start 1 hour before serving. Preheat the oven on 300F/145C.

Trim off some excess fat on the lamb rack if you need to. Place the lamb rack inside a baking sheet and set the baking sheet securely under the kitchen vent-hoods. Turn the vent on high. Evenly rub a few nubs of unsalted butter over the lamb, and with your torch-burner, start searing and caramelising the entire surface of the lamb rack. Keep basting the lamb with the melted butter and rendered fat, and make sure every inch of the surface on both sides (especially the fats) are deeply browned and caramelized. Some smokes and sparks will arise from the process, but don’t worry, it should be minor and dealt with by your kitchen vent.

Your lamb rack should now look as if it’s gorgeously roasted, but in fact, the interior is still completely uncooked. Now, season the lamb rack on all sides generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then set it inside the same baking-sheet with the meat-side facing up. Insert the meat-thermometer into the centre of the meat, then place it on the middle rack inside the preheated oven. Keep the thermometer facing outward so you can read the temperature without opening the oven. Slow-roast the lamb until the internal temperature reads 132ºF/55ºC (remember, the temperature will continue to climb later). This will take approx 30 to 40 min (there won’t be much happening in the first 20 min).

Once the lamb reaches desired temperature, remove from the oven and cover loosely with a foil and let rest for at least 8 min. DO NOT remove the meat-thermometer at this point. You will risk juices escaping through the hole before the meat is properly rested. Meanwhile, mix the “herbs and spice rub” evenly together. After 8 min, the temperature should have stopped rising and reads around 140ºF/60ºC (perfectly pink and medium-rare). Remove the foil (I usually like to briefly torch the lamb at this point to get it “sizzling” again. it won’t further cook the meat), then brush a thin layer of Dijon mustard covering the meat-side. Apply the rub over the Dijon and pat gently to help it stick.

Cut the lamb-rack in between bones and season with more sea salt. Serve immediately.

 

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