Stir-fried lamb

Not everything cooked in a wok is Chinese. Here’s a unique combination of splendid tastes that give the beginner cook a ready-made reputation for excellence.

Stir-fried lamb

To make stir-fried lamb with cumin, garlic and chilli, you will need:

  • 600g lamb
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 5 spring onions 
  • A generous bunch of fresh coriander leaves (dhania)
  • 3 or 4 whole pele-pele chillies
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 15ml dark soya sauce
  • Canola or sunflower oil on demand
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Like most stir-fries, this recipe is mostly preparation and high heat. Ideally, this demands a wok – an utensil that should be in your kitchen. Buy a stainless steel wok or alternatively, a mild steel one. Mild steel woks are cheaper but require seasoning with hot oil followed by careful cleaning and storage after use. Some battle-scarred stir-fry mechanics like a wok with a wooden handle since the standard steel grips get hot.

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Next, the lamb. Ideally, this should be a leg with minimum fat. Get the butcher to cut it into uniform strips, 15mm cubes, or do it yourself. Remember that the key word is ‘uniform’ since this will ensure that all pieces are cooked to the same degree of doneness. Top and tail the spring onions, discarding roots and damaged tips. Separate the whites from the greens. Cut the white parts into 15mm sections and chop the greens more finely.

Crush, peel and finely chop the garlic. Now for the chillies. These are a big deal requiring some careful decision-making. Pele-pele chillies are those tiny little dudes of concentrated fire power. Alternatively, use the more common red or green chilli. If chilli heat is an issue, remove and discard the pips. Then finely chop the remainder. Not all soya sauces are equal and are as big a deal as you make it. Choose between light (table) and dark (cooking) soya sauce.

I use a Japanese soya sauce.

Toss the whole cumin seeds into a hot, dry frying pan for 60 seconds, jiggling the pan while doing so. This will lightly toast the cumin, adding to its flavour and fragrance. In a mixing bowl, combine the lamb pieces, minced garlic, white sections of spring onion, toasted cumin, chopped chillies and soya sauce. Stir in a pinch of salt and a half teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper. Stir well and cover.

Prepare the wok, large frying pan or skillet. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of canola or sunflower oil and bring this up to high heat. Pour in the lamb mixture and spread it out so that it forms one layer. Let this cook for 60 seconds, then stir it well before allowing another minute of cooking to elapse. Reduce the heat and cook until the meat is done. Kill the heat, add the chopped spring onion greens and stir well into the cooked mixture. Serve with Chinese noodles or plain white rice garnished with fresh coriander.


Contact David Basckin at [email protected]. Please state ‘Real cooking’ in the subject line of your email.