I've created a recipe for Silk Road lamb burgers, inspired by romantic imagined scenes of travel on camel or horseback to exotic towns filled with spices, music, poetry and silk. The Silk Road refers to the many routes that plied 4,000 miles between Rome and China, connecting Turkey, Central Asia and Persia along the way. Marco Polo is famous for having traveled along this route. Valuable commodities carried west on the Silk Road included silk, porcelain and gunpowder from China, which also supplied peaches and pomegranates; pepper, batik, spices, perfumes, glass beads and gems from India; incense, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg from the East Indies; nuts, sesame seeds, glass and carpets from Persia; and coral and ivory from Siam. While functioning as an important trade route from the 1st century B.C. to the A.D. 15th century, the Silk Road also became an important crossroads of the arts, ideas and religions.
One of the important crossroads of the eastern portion of the Silk Road was Xian, in China. While modernized like the rest of China, Xian preserves much of its multicultural heritage dating back to Silk Road times. In today's Xian, cultural influences from the West are present in the mosques which still play an active role in the community. The food eaten in this area is referred to as "Chinese Muslim" and features flatbreads, wheat noodles, and lamb as staples, in contrast to the rice and pork which are more commonly consumed in Chinese cuisine. Chinese Muslim cuisine also embraces a more vibrant use of spices, dating back to the Silk Road trade routes.
These Silk Road lamb burgers are inspired by the flavors of Chinese Muslim cuisine and a common lamb stir fry served in this part of China, a dish that Marco Polo would likely have eaten. I've spiced them with cumin, scallions, onion, and chili. - Beautiful, Memorable Food —Beautiful, Memorable Food
Test Kitchen Notes
Beautiful, Memorable Food’s Silk Road Burgers took me down a merry lane, fragrant with toasted cumin and hand-in-hand with my love: cilantro. The ingredient ratios result in perfect, meaty burgers, which grilled with great crust and juicy interior. And the jalapeno mix? A welcome, warming confluence on a road well and perfectly travelled. My neighbor happened to stop by and was delighted with a free burger. She gave it her nod of approval and so do I. No doubt Marco Polo would too. - Kitchen Butterfly —Kitchen Butterfly
- Serves 8
- For the lamb burgers
whole cumin seeds, toasted in a dry skillet
red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
fresh cilantro, finely minced
sesame seed hamburger buns (a nod to nang, the traditional sesame crusted flatbread of Chinese Muslim cuisine)
- For the topping
canola or peanut oil
medium white onion, julienned
jalapeno peppers, sliced into thin rounds (I do not seed them but you may if you prefer less heat)
garlic cloved, minced
coarsely ground black pepper, adjust to taste
salt, to taste
- Season ground lamb with salt, freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, minced cilantro and toasted cumin seeds. Combine thoroughly.
- Shape lamb mixture into 8 patties.
- Heat oil in pan, then sauté onion, scallions, and peppers and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until onions are translucent and wilted. Set aside.
- Cook lamb patties to desired doneness on an outdoor grill, preferably charcoal.
- Serve burgers on grilled sesame seed buns, and top with the onion and pepper mixture.