Chilli Lamb

Chili Lamb.jpg

With cumin and black mustard seeds complementing soy sauce, garlic and rice vinegar, this dish comes across as Pan-Asian. Yet its roots are Chinese. In north-western China, Uyghur Muslims have used cumin for years, and the spice, while still not that common in the rest of China, makes appearances in lamb stir-fries and grilled meat dishes. Regardless of its historical roots, Chili Lamb has a large and devoted fan base at Burma Superstar

Serves 4 as part of a larger meal


1 ½ pounds boneless leg of lamb

1 teaspoon cornstarch

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 ½ teaspoon soy sauce

1 ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce or regular soy sauce

2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced jalapenos

3 small dried chiles, seeds retained, broken in half

¼ to ½ teaspoon dried chile flakes

1 cup sliced yellow onion

10 Thai basil leaves, plus extra for garnish (optional)



Trim off the external sinew of the lamb leg. With a knife, separate the muscles by following along where the muscles naturally  separate and slice against the grain into thin strips, removing any sinew as you work.

Transfer lamb to a bowl and use your hands to mix the meat with the cornstarch, pepper, salt and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Let marinate at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

In a dry wok or skillet, toast the cumin seeds and mustard seeds until the cumin is fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop, no more than 30 seconds. Transfer to a mortar and use a pestle (or a coffee grinder used for grinding spices) to pulverize to a coarse powder.
In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauces, 1 teaspoon of the rice vinegar, and the sugar.

Heat the wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat the sides. Stir-fry the lamb until the pieces have separated and are lightly browned but not fully cooked, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook briefly, about 15 seconds. Add the mustard-cumin blend, chiles, and chile flakes and stir-fry briefly. Pour in the sauce mixture, increase the heat to high, and let the sauce come to a boil.

Add the lamb and onions and cook, stirring often, until the lamb is cooked through but the onions are still slightly crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the basil and the remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar. Taste, adding more soy sauce or vinegar if desired. Garnish with more basil.