Lamb Kebab (羊肉串）
June 19, 2021  Print Recipe
It’s summer in Texas, meaning it’s prime grilling time! One of my favorites is lamb kebabs, or chuan (羊肉串), where the meat is juicy and tender, and the flavor is unique, fragrant, and addictive. I usually salivate just thinking about it.
After I met my husband in college, I introduced him to lamb kebabs when we visited some street vendors in Flushing, Queens. My husband, who grew up in the Midwest, became an instant lamb kebab fan. But we couldn’t grill our own lamb kebabs while living in a shoe box apartment in Manhattan. It wasn’t until we moved to Northern Virginia that we started grilling our own meat on our deck. Now that we are in Texas, grilling has become quite a common pastime.
Besides the flavor, lamb kebabs always bring me back to my childhood days in Beijing, when my friends and I would spend our meager allowance on a few lamb kebabs whenever we could. We would get them from some street vendors outside of our school. These days, lamb kebab street vendors are hard to find in Beijing due to local rules, but every time I go back to Beijing, I usually still visit the Xinjiang Village that was settled by the Uyghurs in the 80’s from Xinjiang province to have some authentic lamb kebabs, or chuan (羊肉串).
In my previous post Cumin Lamb, I talked about my obsession with lamb kebabs and the differences between lamb kebabs and cumin lamb. It is true that lamb kebabs take more time overall than cumin lamb and require an open fire grill, but you don’t need much seasoning at all. I learned this from one of my childhood classmates who is of Uyghur descent and eats lamb kebabs practically on a weekly basis. He said the key to lamb kebabs is the quality of the meat. With good lamb meat, you only need to marinate for a short amount of time with a few seasonings to enhance the flavor. Another important tip is to have alternating lean and fat lamb meat on the skewer for best result. The lamb kebabs would not taste nearly as good if they were made with only lean meat.
I usually buy the boneless lamb leg from Costco to make my lamb kebabs. Costco sells pretty high quality Australian lamb meat. But trying to pick ones with equal portions of lean and fat lamb meat requires a bit of luck and guessing. I usually end up with a little more lean meat than fat. So to conserve fat, I will sometimes skewer two lean ones then a fat one instead of using a 1 to 1 ratio.
Tools: Skewers, Charcoal Grill (I just use a simple kettle grill)
Gluten Free, Low Carb
Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4-6 people
- 2 lb (~900g) of lamb meat (ideally equal portions of lean and fat lamb meat)1
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- moderate amount of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Cut the lamb meat into small cubes and put the cubes in a medium mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds, mixing well. Let the meat marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- While marinating the lamb meat, start preparing an open grill if using charcoal.
- Once the lamb meat is done marinating, use a skewer to skewer the meat together. Skewer lean and fat cubes in an alternating fashion for best result. To avoid overcrowding, put no more than 10 lamb cubes on one skewer.
- Once the charcoal grill is hot and ready, put the prepared skewers on the grill. Sprinkle on cayenne pepper (for a spicy kick) and more ground cumin during grilling. Add a pinch of salt along the way. Flip sides every 1-2 minutes to avoid burning the meat. Once the meat reach an internal temperature of 165˚F, about 5 minutes, take the skewers off the grill. Enjoy!
- As I mentioned in introduction, I usually buy the boneless lamb meat from Costco to maker this recipe. You can buy from any grocery store as long as the meat is of good quality with a relatively equal amount of lean and fat meat.
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