When I saw the gorgeous lamb shoulder meat at the charming Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market in West Village, I knew immediately that I would be making lamb stew for dinner.
There are three versions of lamb stew I never get tired of making and eating.
The Moroccan version is definitely one of my favorites. The use of ras el hanout, which includes spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, clove, nutmeg, and ground chile peppers, brings intense aroma to the stew. Preserved lemons and dried dates or prunes also add layers of flavors and complexity to the dish.
I also like Navarin d’agneau, the famous French lamb stew. The fragrant and sweet root vegetables, such as turnips and carrots, make the stew irresistible.
Another one I love to make is the Chinese version, which I’m sharing with you today. The procedure of making the stew is surprisingly similar to the Moroccan or French version. The main difference lies in the list of ingredients, which includes two uniquely Chinese items:
Literally translated as “aged peel”, chenpi is dried and aged tangerine peel. It’s a unique seasoning ingredient in Chinese cuisine. To be called chenpi, dried peel has to be aged for at least 3 years in order for the complex flavors to develop. It has a distinctive aroma which you won’t get from fresh or unaged tangerine peel.
Dried jujubes (红枣)
Jujubes, also known as Chinese dates or red dates, are native to China and have been cultivated there for over 3,000 years. When jujubes are dried, they acquire a richer and sweeter flavor, which adds a wonderful fruity note to soups and stews.
Another ingredient in the stew is white radish, also known as daikon. White radish has a crispy and juicy fresh, and a delicate flavor that is milder than some other varieties. In Chinese cooking, white radishes are often added to braises, stews, and soups, where they are cooked until tender and absorb the flavors in the cooking liquid.
All of these three ingredients impart their unique aromas to the stew, and work brilliantly with the gaminess of the lamb meat. You can easily find them at Chinese grocery stores.
Lamb stew with white radish, jujubes and tangerine peel
Makes 2 servings
1 lb (450 g) lamb shoulder meat, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) cubes
1 large chenpi (dried tangerine peel)
6 dried jujubes
1 medium white radish, about 8 oz (230 g), cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
2 scallions, each tied into a knot
One 1-inch (2.5 cm) ginger, sliced
2 star anise pods
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
¼ teaspoon Zhenjiang (Chinkiang) vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Heat the oil in a hot wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Season the lamb meat with salt. Sear until golden brown on all sides.
- Add the scallions, ginger, and Shaoxing wine, and cook for 20 seconds. Add enough water to fully cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer. Add the chenpi, dried jujubes, bay leaf, and Zhenjiang vinegar. Season the liquid lightly with salt.
- Simmer, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. Remove impurities that rise to the top from time to time during simmering.
- Add the white radish and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the radish is tender but not mushy.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
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