Chinese Lamb Skewers
This recipe is inspired by one of my favourite restaurants in South East London’s Camberwell, called Silk Road. The restaurant was one of the first to gain notoriety for food from far West China.
Situated at the convergence of the ‘stans (Tajikstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan), the flavours of this region in China are influenced by the Middle East, so think lots of peppers, saffron and cumin.
These skewers are usually eaten as street food, cooked on small metal barbecues which ensure a constant cloud of incredible lamb-scented smoke hangs in the air. They’re made with alternating chunks of meat and small pieces of lamb fat, which crisp and caramelise over the fire. This is about as addictive as BBQ gets and the skewers should be eaten at their peak before the fat cools: you want it still spitting from the grill.
The recipe is very simple but it’s the quantity of spice that makes it special: a heavy dusting of ground cumin and chilli powder brings powerful flavour, reinforced by sprinkling more onto the meat as it’s cooking. The bite-size pieces mean there’s no need to let the meat sit in the spices overnight, but if you’d like to get the skewers ready the day before then it’s possible that they’ll taste even better. Hard to imagine, but possible.
I like to serve these with a cold sesame cabbage salad, to contrast the spicy lamb. A pile of steamed rice works well although I tend to serve flatbreads; the Uyghur people are famous for their nang (similar to Indian naan) which are the perfect resting place for a pile of hot lamb skewers, and a way to catch all those flavourful juices.