Lamb and cumin is a pairing you’d normally associate with Middle Eastern cooking, but it is also a staple in the north-west of China, where there is a large Muslim community. According to my Taiwanese friend Gary Chang, there’s only one heat when stir-frying, and that’s “very hot”, so keep the flame high to achieve a good sear, and use a wok if you have one, or a high-sided saute pan if you don’t.
Up to 1 hr
700g boneless lamb shoulder, skin, silverskin and gristle removed, then cut into 6cm x 5mm strips
2 tsp cornflour
1½ tbsp ground cumin
90ml dark soy sauce
60ml Shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 aubergines, cut into 6cm x 2cm pieces
60ml vegetable oil
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 tbsp cumin seeds
3 red chillies, finely sliced on an angle (deseeded, if you prefer less heat)
3 spring onions, finely sliced on an angle
15g coriander, leaves and stalks separated
1½ tsp rice-wine vinegar
- Pat the lamb dry, then put it in a bowl with the cornflour, a tablespoon of ground cumin, half the dark soy sauce, half the Shaoxing rice wine and the sugar, toss to coat and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
- Toss the aubergine with the remaining cumin and half a teaspoon of salt. Heat half the oil in a large wok or saute pan on a high flame, then fry the aubergine, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until it’s beginning to brown.
- Add the ginger and one tablespoon of soy, and fry for three minutes more, stirring very often, until the aubergine is a dark golden brown. Remove the aubergine from the wok, wipe the pan clean, then return it to the heat. Put the cumin seeds in the hot pan and, taking care not to burn them, dry fry for around 30 seconds, until fragrant, then tip into a saucer.
- Return the pan to a high heat and, once it’s smoking, add the rest of the oil and swirl around. Add a third of the lamb, separating the pieces with a spoon, so they don’t clump together, then leave to sear undisturbed for two minutes. Stir-fry for another two minutes, until crisp and golden brown all over, then lift out of the wok with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. Repeat with the rest of the lamb in two more batches, then drain and discard half of the fat.
- Return all the meat to the wok and, over a high heat, quickly toss with the aubergines, the remaining soy and rice wine, the chillies, spring onions, coriander and toasted cumin seeds, for only a few seconds, to warm through. Transfer to a platter, drizzle over the vinegar and serve straight away.