One of the more widespread types of noodles in China is from Lanzhou, which is a smallish (by Chinese standards) out in the western province of Gansu, but one with a particularly large Muslim population.  So in addition to the area’s famous noodles, the quality of mutton is also noteworthy.

My food destinations were largely mapped out already, courtesy of recommendations from my friend Jeff, whose wife is from Lanzhou.  My first stop was Ma Lao Liu, a halal restaurant that specializes in hotpot and mutton.

So that’s exactly what I ordered, plus some 三泡台, the famous Lanzhou green tea with a medley of dried fruits and berries (longyan, dates, wolfberries, fermented rice) and a few other mystery ingredients (including a flower).

House of Haos Ma Lao Liu Halal Lanzhou China Sanpaotai TeaThe hotpot, which helped warm me up on a surprisingly chilly day in September, was simple but robust, especially after it had some time to boil.  I love the subtle spice and sweetness that daikon adds to long-simmered soups, enhanced by the green onions and wolfberries.House of Haos Ma Lao Liu Halal Lanzhou China Mutton Daikon Hotpot House of Haos Ma Lao Liu Halal Lanzhou China HotpotThe real draw for me was the house-special pulled mutton (精品手抓羊肉), which is nothing more than a stack of juicy, fatty, fall-off-the-bone, intensely gamey meat, with some chewy cartilage and rib-ends scattered through the pile.House of Haos Ma Lao Liu Halal Lanzhou China MuttonThe whole plate was definitely too much for me by myself, but the meat was just so good that I polished off all but one or two ribs.  The key is to use some vinegar, which pairs really well with the gaminess and cuts through the butteriness of the fat layers.House of Haos Ma Lao Liu Halal Lanzhou China Mutton 2The daikon hotpot, as do most of the other hotpot combinations, contain a healthy amount of mutton as well, so between the two dishes I definitely ran out of capacity for mutton.  But I liked that the dipping sauce they provided was of the Sichuan persuasion (mashed garlic and sesame oil).House of Haos Ma Lao Liu Halal Lanzhou China Mutton Garlic Dipping SauceMa Lao Liu Halal Food / 马老六清真餐饮
Tongwei Road No. 17 (near Zhangye Walking Street)