Szechuan Lambypops with Cilantro Chimichurri

By • May 2, 2013 16 Comments

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Author Notes: My brother-in-law loves lamb. And not just any lamb -- a very specific cumin-y grilled lamb he remembers from years ago in some small village in China. Ever since he told me this, I have tried making a version of this lamb for him, feeling sadly aware that I might never get it. This was not made easier by the fact that my sister hates lamb, thus slimming our chances for hunting it down.

But then last summer they were all coming for a visit and my sister asked me to make him some lamb as a surprise. I looked around again for regional Chinese recipes that might come close and settled on a combination of marinade and dry rub and held my breath.

"This is it,” he said.
“I like this lamb, Sam I am” said my sister (or some such Seussian saying)
The rest of us just chewed contentedly for a while.
My brother-in-law attempted to finish the entire platter, but just….couldn’t….squeeze….more….lamb…into…his….gut.

Ever since, this has been our go-to lamb. The marinade flavors the meat and the spice rub gets crispy with the floral peppercorns ever-so-slightly numbing your tongue and lips. It works equally well using a leg cut into strips, or, as I often prefer, these tiny chops you can eat with your hands. The dip is a great, vibrantly green complement (though they are also really good with a tamarind or apricot chutney; I often make both). The spice rub can also be sprinkled on a variety of meats for some great grilling.

Food52 Review: These were great and just the thing to throw on the barbecue. I halved the lamb, but made the full amount of the chimichurri. This recipe has three bold flavor profiles: marinated lamb, a spice rub, and cilantro chimichurri -- all with distinct flavors of their own, but blended beautifully in one little chop. The 6- to 8-hour marinade gave the chops a garlicky and salted flavor from the soy with a hint of sherry. The toasted spice rub had that unique taste you can only get from Szechuan peppercorns. The chimichurri added just the right amount of freshness and a little heat to round it all out. And the spice rub made a nice crust on the lamb chops. jvcooks

Serves 6


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 racks lambchops, frenched
  • 4 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
  • Cilantro Chimichurri
  1. Mix soy sauce, oil, sherry, and garlic. Cut lamb into 6 equal pieces and marinate for 6 to 8 hours.
  2. Heat grill. Grind cumin seeds, peppercorns, and coriander seeds. Mix with salt and chili and sprinkle liberally over lamb. Grill until temperature reaches 140, let rest about 5 minutes, then slice each piece in half. Serve with Cilantro Chimichurri.

Cilantro Chimichurri

  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons jalapeño, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  1. Blend all ingredients through rice vinegar, then drizzle in oil with the machine running. Season to taste with salt.

More Great Recipes: Lamb|Appetizers|Entrees

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Comments (16) Questions (0)


7 months ago Peter

The recipe for this rub was surprisingly deep and tasty considering how few ingredients. I toasted the spices, then pounded them with a mortar and pestle. Thanks for the great recipe and an excuse to use my stash of szechuan peppercorns!


6 months ago savorthis

Great! Glad you liked them. I used some of the peppercorns too by steeping them in vodka. I made a "Szechuan Mule" and it was surprising and delicious.


10 months ago Alyce

Such interesting flavor combinations. What else do you serve with this dish?


10 months ago savorthis

I usually serve it with something simple like rice and pan fried broccoli, but in the summer a simply dressed salad and crusty bread is good too. I've made it quite often with a leg of lamb cut in strips which is wonderful wrapped in a warm pita with blistered tomatoes.


over 2 years ago Tokyo Yum

Made these for sudden guests 2 days ago. Fantastic! Your chimchurri sauce is going to be one of my favorite sauce recipes! I had leftover sauce and rub - so I used the rub on shrimp and then served it on a bed of garlic/olive oil/parmesan sautéed fresh linguine with the chimchurri sauce poured over. Heavenly!!!! The only change I would make is to not put the salt into the rub - to have better control of saltiness.


over 2 years ago savorthis

Thanks for your comments and glad you liked it. The pasta dish sounds great - than you for sharing!


over 2 years ago Waverly

Very nice! This sounds wonderful.


over 2 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I too love lamb, SavorThis I am! This looks great!


over 2 years ago savorthis

Well you would be happy to know my brother-in-law who inspired this dish is in Austin and I send him home with the spice I will be bringing a pile on my next visit!


over 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

This looks positively enticing!


over 2 years ago Sarah D

Wow...this looks really, really good. I can't wait to try this recipe! :)


over 2 years ago creamtea

Yum. I want the tamarind chutney recipe too, please. !


over 2 years ago savorthis

I'll have to write it down next time! For now, though, the basic idea is this: I take a couple tablespoons of the tamarind paste (so much easier than dealing with the block) and mix it with a slight splash of rice vinegar, honey and either a sriracha or chili garlic sauce. I think traditionally it has a lot of spices in it, but since the lamb is coated in spice, I just like a bit of sweet and tangy. Likewise with the apricot jam- I mix it with lime juice and some sort of chili paste. Now I am thinking you could use the korean gochujang mixed with the apricot jam or maybe even orange marmalade and lime....I bet that would be great. Finally, I once served this with the cilantro sauce, apricot sauce and a cool yoghurt sauce which made a beautiful trio on the platter.


over 2 years ago inpatskitchen

This looks wonderful! I've always treated lamb with Greek seasonings but next time I think I'll try your lovely Asian take. thanks for sharing!


over 2 years ago savorthis

Thanks Pat. We used to mainly do the mustard, rosemary crust on lamb, but these flavors are really transformative and so easy to dress up with a variety of sauces. If you make it, I'd love to hear what you think!


over 2 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

I'm glad to see that you "frenched" the bone. Without the Asian seasoning it would be similar to Roman style scottadito, which means "burn your fingers". Minimally seasoned.