Yang rou chuan (Spicy lamb kebabs)

May 26, 2010

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Serves 6

Literally “sheep meat skewer,’’ these tiny pieces of lamb (each is the size of an almond), are rolled in cumin and crushed red pepper, then threaded onto skewers, grilled on hot coals, and sold as street food all over China. They were traditionally made by Uyghur minority people from the western province of Xinjiang, but now Han Chinese offer them too. You can sometimes find the skewers during the day, but you usually see them at night. To eat them, you stand on the street with juice dripping down your chin. Allow time to trim and cut the meat into these small nuggets.

2 pounds boneless leg of lamb
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 jar (1.75 ounces) ground cumin (about 1/2 cup)
1 jar (1.75 ounces) crushed red pepper (about 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cut the lamb into pieces the size of almonds. Thread them onto short bamboo skewers, putting 8 on each. You can make 18 skewers.

2. Light a charcoal grill and wait for the coals to turn gray or set a gas grill to medium-high.

3. Pour the oil onto a plate. On 2 other plates, put the cumin and red pepper. Roll the skewers in the oil, then in the cumin and red pepper. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

4. Set the skewers on the grill rack, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Turn, cover, and cook 3 minutes more or until the meat is cooked through but still juicy.

Lane Turner and Liu Jingjing