If you’re a native English speaker, the phrase “lamb stew” probably doesn’t call to mind very many Chinese dining experiences. That’s most likely because Chinese food outside of China tends to ignore every cooking method except for stir-frying. But in reality, Chinese cuisine includes all conceivable kinds of preparation: poaching, steaming, boiling, stewing, smoking, baking, blanching… you get the point.
When I was in Beijing last winter, my guy’s mom sent him home with tasty leftover stew, and this is a very decent recreation of that recipe.
- 1 lb lamb, cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 Tbsp peanut oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 inch ginger, minced
- 1 medium shallot, chopped
- 3 star anise
- 4″ cassia bark, snapped into 1″ lengths (substitute cinnamon)
- 5 dried red chili peppers
- 1-2 Tbsp Xiaoxing rice wine (substitute dry sherry)
- 1 Tbsp white or brown sugar
- 1 carrot, chopped into 1″ pieces
- Heat your wok until it just begins to smoke, then add the peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the lamb cubes and let them brown, cooking them for about 1 minute on each side.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot; stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the star anise, cassia bark, and chili peppers, and stir for another 30 seconds until the flavors are released. Swirl the rice wine into the mixture.
- Transfer everything from your wok into a clay pot. Add enough water to cover (perhaps 2 cups, maybe more); stir in the sugar, cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour. Add water if necessary.
- Add the chopped carrot and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Serve with rice and perhaps a vegetable dish.
Variations: The carrot can be replaced with big chunks of potato. Optionally, you can substitute beef for lamb. Also, for a more northern China taste, omit some or all of the dried chili peppers and add 2 additional Tbsp sugar to the clay pot in step 3.