Xian Famous Foods’ Spicy Cumin Lamb

No trip to New York City is complete without at least one stop at Xian Famous Foods. It’s one of our favorite NYC restaurants and their noodles are a must order.

Since we’ve moved to Switzerland, we were ecstatic to find out that they had a new cookbook so that we can get some of our favorite XFF dishes at home. We’ve been cooking through the book, and the Spicy Cumin Lamb is what we started with. It’s delicious and super simple. Also, try their recipe for Pineapple Chicken.

We found noodles similar enough to those used at XFF at a local Asian market, but you could also easily serve this spicy lamb dish over rice or make your own.


Make Spicy Cumin Lamb with noodles from the famous New York City Chinese restaurant Xian Famous Foods
Words by Jason Wang and Jessica Chou. Photo by Jenny Haung.


If there’s anything you need to know about this dish, it’s this: Bourdain loved it. Of course, the customers chose it as our knockout dish before he did. When we first started, we would sell the lamb on its own, but it would sell out so quickly, we couldn’t even make noodles with it. It didn’t help that this has to be cooked in small batches with the strongest fire possible, evenly browning the small, manageable pieces of lamb so every morsel of meat is properly seasoned, every bite a punch of spice, fire, and onion seasoning.

Think the lamb pieces are too small? Think again: The increased surface area helps the meat absorb the spices and flavor, making the extra effort well worth it. Once you cook a batch, you’ll see why N1, our spicy cumin lamb with noodles, is one of our most copied dishes.

Get the Xian Famous Foods cookbook here.


Make Spicy Cumin Lamb with noodles from the famous New York City Chinese restaurant Xian Famous Foods
Spicy Cumin Lamb
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serves: 2
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  • 10 ounces (280 g) boneless lamb leg (ideally partially frozen)
  • teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 green onion, trimmed and chopped
  • 1- inch 2.5 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • teaspoons Red Chili Powder
  • 1 ⁄2 medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 longhorn pepper, diagonally sliced


  • Carefully slice the lamb into 1⁄8-inch (3 mm) thick pieces (note: it’s easier to cut when partially frozen).
  • Place the sliced lamb into a large bowl along with the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil. Mix together with your hands.
  • In a large skillet or wok, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute. Add the green onions, ginger, and garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the lamb and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.
  • When the meat turns an even brown color, turn the heat down to low, add the cumin, salt, and chili powder, and stir to combine. Add the onions and longhorn pepper, stir to combine, and serve.
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