Lamb with Potatoes and Szechuan Vegetables
We had gone the rustic way during our Hangzhou visit based on a recommendation from one of Hub's Chinese colleagues. I could barely believe it when Hub sent me the guy's email containing a link to a...Chinese Youth Hostel. In my middle years it hardly seemed appropriate to rough it out (much as we're quite broke now after summer) and added to that we had the MIL with us.
But said colleague insisted that the rooms were clean and more importantly, he added that the food (home-style) was delicious and not to be missed. Apparently as a client of the hostel you get priority seating and since the restaurant tends to be full, this would be most helpful.
When we were ordering our lunch, the waitress suggested that we try their house special "beef with potatoes and salted vegetables". I was hesitant upon hearing the word "salted vegetables" but Hub and his mother said they wouldn't mind trying the dish so I ordered it.
It turned out to be simple but good, a cross between a beef stew and a potato salad, with a slightly sourish and salty taste and between mouthfuls, you discover bits of what seemed to be cumin. Since I had a packet of szechuan vegetables in the pantry and half a leg of lamb left over after using the other half in a lamb stew (a simpler version of my Irish Stew and a hit with the family), voilà Lamb with Potatoes and Szechuan Vegetables 柞菜土豆羊肉for dinner this evening.
800g leg of lamb (deboned and cubed)
2 tbsp canola oil
half an onion (chopped)
2 large garlic cloves (chopped)
1 large piece fresh ginger (bashed and chopped)
2 tbsp cumin seeds
30g preserved szechuan vegetables
1-2 fresh red chillies (sliced)
crushed black pepper to taste
500ml hot meat stock
2 large potatoes (peeled and sliced thickly)
2-4 tbsp white vinegar
Heat the oil in a casserole and fry the onions, garlic and ginger till fragrant.
Add the cumin seeds, chillies and szechuan vegetables. Use more szechuan vegetables if you are a fan, but the rest of my family wouldn't like it so I used it sparingly.
Fry the lamb cubes in the fragrant oil and add black pepper to taste. There is usually no need to salt the dish as the szechuan vegetables will be salty enough.
Cover the meat with the hot meat stock. Cover the casserole, lower the heat and let the meat simmer for at least an hour or till it melts in the mouth.
In a separate frying pan fry the potatoes in a little oil till both sides are lightly browned. Add them to the lamb stew and cook till they are soft (maybe about 30 minutes). It depends on how mushy you like your potatoes but in my case I prefer to still see pieces of the vegetable.
If you like your dish sourish, stir in a bit of white vinegar. Best served hot with steamed jasmine rice.
Baby Boy refused to try the dish in the restaurant, but said that since his mummy cooked it, he would this evening. It was a pleasure to see him serving himself at least twice, he loved it!