Hunan-Style Lamb

Lamb is not a standard item on southern Chinese menus. It is much more common in northern and central China. The prejudice against lamb may be discerned in a southern proverb: ‘There are seventy-two ways of cooking lamb; most of them result in something quite unpalatable’.

But this is unfair to lamb. As this recipe shows, it lends itself to imaginative uses. Hunan (the birth-province of Mao) is famous for its rather fiery cuisine. Chilli bean and hoisin sauces, as in this recipe, are among the spices most often employed. If you prefer something a bit milder than the hot Hunanese style, simply reduce the amount of chilli bean sauce.

The most tender parts of lamb, such as steaks and chops, are best for this dish. For a complete, well-balanced meal, serve it with rice and a vegetable dish.


  • 450 g (1 lb) lean lamb steak or fillet, or boned loin chop meat
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions, white part only
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded fresh root ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chilli bean sauce
  • tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • teaspoons cornflour


Cut the lamb into thin slices and put it into a bowl. Mix in the Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, soy sauces, sesame oil and cornflour and leave to marinate for 20 minutes. Then drain off and reserve the marinade.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan until it is hot. Add the oil and, when the oil is very hot and slightly smoking, add the marinated lamb pieces with just a little of the reserved marinade. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Now add the spring onions, garlic and ginger and continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Add the chilli bean sauce, hoisin sauce and sugar and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Then stir in the sesame oil, turn on to a warm serving platter and serve immediately.