"Lamb is my favourite meat and pork belly baos are a traditional tried and tested recipe, so I thought why not try a lamb belly version?
The result is a tender, juicy and rich bun. Baos are a feature of the cuisine of many different countries, and this recipe is a true globe trotter - marrying smoked BBQ flavours, with tingly numbing Chinese Szechuan pepper, and the British love of lamb. It is sure to become your friends and families most requested BBQ dish.
I love using herbs as a salad leaf instead of lettuce as they pack so much freshness and flavour into one bite, so I’ve used mint and coriander together here. If like me you’re a messy saucy bao lover then a good drizzle of Japanese kewpie mayo here at the end is a great addition."
Ingredients for Szechuan Belly Bao Buns
- 1-1.5kg piece of the meatiest lamb belly your butcher can supply. It’s also sometimes called lamb breast.
- 6-8 bao buns
- Half a cucumber, sliced
- 1 small bunch each of coriander and mint
For the BBQ rub
How to make Szechuan Lamb Bao Buns
- First you need to fire up your smoker. Get the coals going and once they have all lit and have become white add a few pieces of your wood of choice. The more wood you add the stronger the smoke flavour, 3 or 4 hand size chunks is good for a longer smoke like this one.
- Add hot water to the water pan (never cold as this lowers the temp inside and slows the whole process down). Put the lid on the smoker but leave the vents open. let the fire die down as if you were going to BBQ burgers or a steak. When your temp has settled to around 140 Celsius you’ll be ready to add the meat.
- PREPARE THE SEASONINGS. Pop everything except the curry paste and salt in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and crush or blend until everything is a nice sprinkle-able powder. Set that aside and grab your lamb.
- PREP THE MEAT. On a cutting board lay the belly meaty side down. Trim off any gnarly looking parts and remove any sinews/skin that you have covering the surface. Repeat on the other side.
- Turn the belly back over and score it with a sharp knife in a crisscross pattern just a half centimetre or so deep. Like you were scoring a pork roast to make crackling. This helps the heat and the seasoning get all the way through the meat. Now place the lamb onto a tray or into an oven tray big enough so that you can lay it down flat and move it around. Season all over the meat liberally with the salt, coating every surface.
- Leave the meat to sit for 3-4 minutes or until you can see the surface start to swear and become moist and beaded with liquid. This helps stick your flavour to the meat and create a nice seasoning layer. Now massage the curry paste into the lamb vigorously.
- Get it well coated and distributed. Finally take your dry spice mix and sprinkle and rub that all over the lamb like you did with the salt. You are now ready to smoke! You could do this 12/24 hours before if you want to prepare ahead and pop it in the fridge but it’s not essential.
- If using the Meater insert into the lamb breast lengthways up to the line in the thickest part you can and set the cook to removal at 95 Celsius, ignore this step if your using a Thermapen or other probe. Now lay the lamb on the smoker racks meaty side up and close the lid. Set the vents to ¾ closed and leave for 30 minutes. Keeping an eye on the temp. If it shoots above 140 close the vents more on the bottom and vent by opening the lid briefly.
- If it drops below 110C rake your coals and add some more and/or more wood to bring back the heat. Opening the bottom vent will also make the heat rise as it brings more air to the fire and stokes it. After thirty minutes, mist the meat with water/liquid from the sprag bottle well and flip it over. Repeat this process twice more until the belly has cooked for 90 minutes. This should be enough smoke flavour.
- The meat should be looking nice and juicy and browning up well. Remove the lamb and wrap it tightly in pink butcher paper. Place back on the grill (or in a preheated oven if the weather is against you) and cook until the temp of the lamb reaches 93-95C. About another hour. Remove and allow to rest still wrapped up for 20 minutes.
- While your lamb is resting warm/steam your Bao buns, wash and thinly slice your cucumbers and pick, wash and dry your mint and coriander leaves. Once the 20 mins is up unwrap your beautiful lamb parcel being careful to reserve any juice you may have accumulated.
- This is drizzle worthy gold. Slice the lamb into pieces and serve in the bao buns with crunchy cold cucumber slices and the fresh herbs, lots of them, think of them like lettuce leaves. Drizzle the lamb with any resting juices and the Whuite Mausu rayu, and enjoy with a cold beer. Cheers!
Chef and recipe writer Jenny Greenhalgh has worked in kitchens and cookery schools for over 20 years. She has spent time cooking at St John, and in Jamie Oliver's Cookery School. She runs the pop-up Two Dogs, bringing the food and music of the American south to London with a big dose of fun, plaid and Dolly Parton. She is a BBQ smoker expert.