Mongolian Lamb is a Chinese restaurant classic and perfect to serve at a Chinese New Year celebration. But did you know that it takes a total of about 20 minutes to make without using any hard to find ingredients? This version of Mongolian Lamb is my mother's recipe and tastes so tender, just like the restaurant version! This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader.
I think most of us have childhood memories of eating Mongolian Lamb at Chinese restaurants. I remember sitting in countless Chinese restaurants with my legs swinging under the table while adults talked about boring things and the only thing I really wanted was the food and deep fried ice cream (a Coke was a pipe dream that would only happen if someone other than my parents were paying). Mongolian Lamb would always come out on a sizzling cast iron plate and the waiter would bring the hot plate to the table and would always warn us kids with a pointed look that the plate was hot. But really this is probably the easiest Chinese dish you can make! Lamb is an auspicious ingredient to use at Chinese New Year where you eat expensive and better cuts of meat for good luck in the year ahead. The coins in the picture are actually gold chocolate coins for good fortune.
6 Tips to making Delicious and Easy Mongolian Lamb!
1 - Firstly use lamb backstrap. It's a cut of lamb along the spine of the back loin and is a tender, prized cut of lamb. It is more expensive than other cuts (around $70 a kilo from a butcher) but the texture is wonderfully tender.
2 - Slice the lamb when it is semi frozen which makes it easier and quicker to slice it. You don't want it shaved too thinly though.
3 - This recipe "velvets" the lamb in bi-carb. I've written about velveting and how Chinese restaurants achieve that wonderful melting texture to their meat. It's a simple 5 minute process using just a teaspoon of bi-carb and makes a massive difference. And I did wonder if velveting lamb was necessary as it is so tender anyway so I did half velveted and half unvelveted and it really is worth doing to get that restaurant style texture.
4 - The key to most Chinese food is the mise en place or prepping the ingredients before you start cooking. Once you start cooking it's ridiculously fast to make and people remarked at how fast a dish my Mongolian beef is to make. Some recipes call for marinating in aromates and flavours but you really don't need it. The lamb is tender thanks to the velveting process and sliced so thinly and the backstrap porous enough for the flavours to permeate.
5 - If you're good with chopsticks I find using chopsticks really handy for both mixing in the bicarb and also frying the lamb pieces so that they separate well in the pan.
6 - If you want to add some vegetables to make this a one pan meal I would suggest some sliced snake beans or green beans and frying them after you fry the lamb.
The last point about the mise en place is particularly relevant to me right now. Our new place has a gas stovetop and oven and I'm getting used to cooking with gas. We never grew up with a gas stove (I think my parents were terrified of the open flame) and in our old apartment I would have had to do hand to hand combat with horrible Henry the Head of the Strata committee to get him to even consider putting in gas.
My new stovetop in my medieval kitchen!
Honestly I'm not used to how fast and powerful it is (and yep I'm a bit scared of the open flame and setting a tea towel on fire because well, I did that once). Usually with electricity and cast iron pots it takes a good few minutes to heat up properly and I can often get my prepping done while it heats up but this was so fast. I'm getting to know the burners as well as I almost burnt the rice as I had it steaming on the lowest flame but this was still too high! But with this Mongolian lamb the high heat worked just perfectly.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you have any tips for cooking with gas? Do you order mongolian lamb at Chinese restaurants?
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 550g/1.2lbs lamb backstrap, semi frozen ideally
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tablespoons cornflour/fine cornstarch
- 3-4 tablespoons oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
- 1 inch ginger, peeled and finely diced
- 1/4 cup/60ml/2flozs brown sugar
- 1/4 cup/60ml/2flozs light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup/60ml/2flozs water
- 2 teaspoons Shaoxing cooking wine
- 5 green onion sticks, trimmed at the end and then cut into 2 inch pieces
- 3 teaspoons cornflour/fine cornstarch mixed with 1.5 tablespoons water to form a slurry
Slicing the lamb thinly
Step 1 - Slice the lamb backstrap into thin strips and mix with the bicarb in a bowl with chopsticks. Set aside for 5 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Have the diced ginger and garlic ready. Also in a small bowl mix the brown sugar, soy sauce, water and Shaoxing cooking wine together until the brown sugar dissolves. Also have the cornflour slurry mixed up too.
Step 2 - After 5 minutes is up, rinse the lamb in a sieve under cold running water to remove any bicarb. Make sure to do this well or it will end up with a bit of bicarb flavour which isn't ideal. I do this in two lots in a sieve. Then mix with the cornflour and set aside.
Step 3 - Heat a wok or a large frying pan on high heat. Add oil and fry the lamb slices making sure not to crowd the lamb. If your pan is small do this in two lots to ensure that the pan isn't over crowded and the lamb is nicely browned on the edges. Remove lamb from the pan. Then add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute. Then add the soy mixture and green onions and allow to come to a boil and then turn down the heat to low. Add in the cornflour slurry and the lamb slices.