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. —savorthis
Test Kitchen Notes
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
Mix soy sauce, oil, sherry, and garlic. Cut lamb into 6 equal pieces and marinate for 6 to 8 hours.
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.
Blend all ingredients through rice vinegar, then drizzle in oil with the machine running. Season to taste with salt.