Stirfried Lamb with Onions

Spring has sprung, and lamb is widely available just in time for Easter. Lamb is not extremely common in Chinese cuisine unless you travel to the areas that were traditionally inhabited by nomadic herders, mostly along the northern and western borders of the country. Because the meat is cut quite small, you needn’t worry about buying the tenderest cut (loin) – in fact, the cuts with a bit more marbling (such as a leg roast) will turn out a better dish.

This recipe also uses onions – another ingredient that is uncommon in Chinese cuisine except in its American incarnation. In Mandarin, onions are called yangcong, perhaps best translated as “overseas onion.”

As with any stirfry, be very careful not to crowd the pan: if your wok is small, better to cook in two batches than to end up with grayish, steamed meat!


  • 12 oz lamb, cut into 1/4″ wide strips that are approximately 1.5″ long
  • 2 T cooking oil
  • 1 T light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, peeled and cut into 1/8″ slices
  • 1 small fresh red chili, seeded (or not) and minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black or white pepper


  • 1 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T Shaoxing cooking wine or dry sherry
  • 1 T tapioca flour or cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda


  1. Combine the lamb with the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, set aside for 30 m.
  2. Heat 1 T oil in a wok over medium high heat just until it shimmers, then add the lamb and stirfry just until it loses its pink color. Remove to a bowl and add the soy sauce and sugar.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 T oil in the wok over medium high heat just until it shimmers, then explode the garlic and chili just until fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown.
  4. Add the onion, and stirfry 1-2 m until lightly browned.
  5. Add the lamb slices back to the wok along with the soy sauce and sugar and stirfry quickly until just cooked through.
  6. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve.