Spice Temple's Northern Chinese-style lamb pancakes have been a best seller at Neil Perry's Chinese fine diner since they appeared on its opening day menu 10 years ago. The crunchy golden discs hum with earthy cumin and ginger and disappear quicker at a party than Moutai at midnight.
Spice Temple's lamb and cumin pancakes
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fine salt
Lamb and cumin filling
2 tbsp cumin seeds, roasted
2cm knob of ginger, roughly chopped
500g lamb mince
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp potato starch
2 tbsp peanut oil
To make the pancake dough, combine the flour, salt and water in a bowl and use your hands to bring it together into a dough. Transfer to a lightly floured bench and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, then wrap in cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
To make the lamb and cumin filling, pound the cumin seeds into a coarse powder using a mortar and pestle. Add the ginger and pound to a paste. Transfer to a bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
To assemble the pancakes, divide both the dough and the lamb filling into 20 even-sized portions. Roll the dough portions into balls, then roll out into rounds about 3mm thick. Spread a portion of the filling evenly over a pancake, then cover with another pancake, pressing the edges together all round to seal well. Repeat with the remaining pancakes and filling.
To finish, place a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and, working in batches, pan-fry the pancakes until golden on both sides and the filling is cooked through, flipping them once. Drain on paper towel, then cut into wedges and season with sea salt before serving.
Serves 4-6 as part of a shared meal
Top Chinese pancake tips
Longtime Spice Temple head chef Andy Evans and dumpling wizard Deli Feng provided me with a hands-on pancake-making tutorial cooking to welcome the Year of the Pig. Here's everything I learned about the kneady craft.
Lamb shoulder makes a top-quality mince thanks to its full flavour and considerable fat content. If you're on a first-name basis with your butcher, they should be able to sort you with shoulder mince. Otherwise look for pre-minced lamb that's not too lean. Fat is your delicious friend.
Use kitchen scales to weigh the first couple of dough pieces to roughly 65g and divide the remaining dough into similar sized pieces. This weight will roll out to the desired pancake thickness and diameter.
Roll the pancakes with a Chinese rolling pin about 25mm thick – it will be much easier to manoeuvre than one of those cumbersome cudgels used by nonnas to make pasta and threaten grandchildren. A piece of hardware store-bought dowling absolutely works too and you can keep it on hand to muddle mojito limes.
Baking paper is handy if you choose to roll the dough in advance. Cut 19 pieces of baking paper into squares roughly the same diameter as the pancakes (about 15cm) and layer paper between the rolled pancakes to prevent them from sticking. The stack will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Whereas dumplings can require level 10 pleating skills to look beaut on the plate, pancakes are forgiving to the clumsiest fingers. If you've ever made pizza from scratch, you're most of the way there. Speaking of, you can use a pizza cutter to trim the pancake to a perfect circle, but if you choose to keep the edge looking more organic, that's totally fine too.
Chinese pancakes are versatile flavour vessels and while Spice Temple's lamb and cumin filling is a bona fide winner, you could also use chicken and ginger, pork and chive, or five-spiced beef and spring onion – any robust flavour combinations that can hold their own against a fried pancake, really.
A single sheet of pancake dough can also be filled and folded over itself to create a little empanada-style snack that's super delicious after a dip in the deep-fryer.
To celebrate the Year of the Pig, Spice Temple Sydney and Spice Temple Melbourne are presenting a Chinese New Year banquet for lunch and dinner daily until February 19. See spicetemple.com.au