This burger bun recipe is our take on the traditional bread found in Xi’an. Although the original buns are the best, this delicious version comes a close second. You can use pork belly instead of lamb, if you prefer.






Skill level

Average: 3.9 (18 votes)


  • 1.2 kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
  • 1½ tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2½ tbsp Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) (see note)
  • 1 star anise
  • 8 cm piece cassia bark (see note)
  • 2 pieces dried tangerine peel (see note)
  • 3 cm piece ginger, sliced
  • dried chilli flakes, thinly sliced spring onion and coriander, to serve

Burger buns

  • 7 g sachet yeast
  • 500 g (3⅓ cups) strong plain flour
  • oil, for brushing

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time 1 hour 5 minutes

Place lamb in a saucepan large enough to fit meat snugly and add enough cold water to just cover. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1½ hours or until meat is very tender, adding more water to keep meat covered, if necessary. Allow to cool in cooking liquid.

Once cool, drain lamb, reserving cooking liquid. Remove meat from bone and slice into 5 mm-thick pieces. Return meat to pan with sugar, soy sauces, Chinese rice wine, star anise, cassia, tangerine peel, ginger and enough reserved cooking liquid to just cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes or until liquid has reduced by three-quarters. Remove whole spices and peel, discarding.

Meanwhile, to make buns, fill a large bowl with 125 ml warm water and scatter over yeast. Set aside to rest in a warm, draught-free place for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add flour, ½ tsp salt flakes and another 150 ml warm water, mixing with a wooden spoon until a firm dough forms. If dough becomes too stiff to handle, add a little extra water.

Turn dough out onto on a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Alternatively, place dough in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix until a smooth ball forms. Transfer dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rest in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch down dough then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, roll dough into a 30 cm-long log, then divide into 8 even pieces. Roll each piece into a thin sausage-shape approximately 14 cm long, then use a rolling pin to roll each dough piece to make a flattened strip about 25 cm x 3.5 cm. Working from the shortest edge, tightly roll each strip like a Swiss roll and stand upright, so rolled edges are facing up and down, then roll out to make a flat 10 cm-diameter disc.

Heat a large frying pan over low heat. Brush base with oil and, working in 2 batches, cook buns for 15 minutes each side or until cooked through and lightly golden. Leave to cool.

Slice each bun widthwise, taking care not to cut all the way through. Open up and divide warm, spiced lamb mixture and a little of the cooking liquid between each bun. Sprinkle with dried chilli flakes, garnish with spring onion and coriander, close buns and serve immediately.


• Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing), cassia bark and tangerine peel are from Asian food shops.


Photography Chris Chen


As seen in Feast magazine, October 2013, Issue 25.