Chinese chef and restaurateur Andrew Wong has a new cookbook out, named for his renowned London eatery, A. Wong. Follow in the celebrated chef’s footsteps as he revisits his culinary travels through China, selecting his favorite recipes to share along the way. You may have had a lamb burger before, but you’ve definitely never had Wong’s.
“A burger?” I hear you ask in disbelief. I was just as surprised when I first experienced this dish. Xi’an is most famously known for being home to the ancient terracotta army of the Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE). However, head to the streets of the city and you will find what some would contend to be the origins of the hamburger. The bread bun is more like pita bread than a typical Cantonese bun, having a crisp surface and a soft interior that soaks up all the braising liquor from the lamb.
- 1 3 1/2-pound breast of lamb
- 4 1/4 cups water, plus extra if needed
- 2 cups Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 1/4 cups light soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 scallions
- 5 star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dried tangerine peels
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
For the bread
- 3 3/4 cups high-gluten (bread) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon dried active yeast
- 2/3 cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 2 Baby Gem lettuces, shredded
- 1/3 cup Sesame and Peanut Sauce (recipe to follow)
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
- 2/3 cup chile flakes
- Xinjiang pomegrante and pickled onion salad (recipe to follow)
Sesame and peanut sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame paste
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- salt and white pepper
Xinjiang Pomegranate & Pickled Onion Salad
- 1 onion, thickly sliced
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
- Scant 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
For the sesame and peanut sauce
Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Store sealed in a sterilized airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
For the salad
Place the onion slices in a colander and sprinkle them with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes to remove any excess moisture from the onion.
Drain and rinse the onion slices under cold running water, then squeeze them dry.
Separate the onion slices into rings on a plate.
Mix the vinegar, sugar and chile flakes together to make a dressing and pour some of it over the onions.
Sprinkle the onions with the cilantro and pomegranate seeds, then finish by spooning more dressing over the top.
For the burger
Cut the lamb breast into strips 2 inches wide.
Blanch the lamb in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes to clean it of impurities, then drain. Clean the pan.
Return the lamb to the cleaned pan with the water and all the remaining ingredients and braise over low heat for 4 hours or until soft to the touch, topping off the water if the pan runs dry.
Meanwhile, for the bread, add all the ingredients to an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until you have a dry but smooth dough. Alternatively, knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface.
Put the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Divide the risen dough into 15 equal portions and roll each into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 10 × 1¼-inch strip.
Roll up each strip into a spiral and then turn the dough so that the spiral is facing upward.
Push down on the dough and then roll out into a disk with a diameter of 4 inches.
Place 1 dough disk at a time in a large, dry skillet with a lid over medium heat.
Cover the pan with the lid and toast until crisp on the underside, then turn over the disk over, re-cover, and cook until the bread is crisp on the other side and cooked through but still soft inside.
To serve, split the breads in half, chop up the lamb breast, and divide it between them, then add a little of the braising liquor to make it juicy. Top with the cilantro, lettuce, peanut sauce, sesame seeds, chile flakes, and the Xinjiang pomegranate and pickled onion salad.