Once I discovered that stir fried lamb flank steak is delicious when I made the Beijing Stir Fried Lamb, Leeks and Cilantro, I knew I would have to experiment with the concept again.
And since I had another three quarters of a pound of the little steaks in my freezer, and about one half pound gai lan in the refrigerator, the pairing seemed inevitable.
Actually, I figured that the strong, somewhat bitter quality of this particular bunch of gai lan would be a nice counterpoint to the sweet richness of lamb.
The gai lan was particularly pungent and reminiscent of mustard, so I decided to add a good bit of Shao Hsing wine to the stir fry to help tame the greens and boost the lamb’s sweet flavors. Sichuan peppercorns, black pepper and chile were added as well–I decided to make a Sichuanese sort of medley of very strong flavors rather than go the Cantonese route of allowing one or two strong flavors to dominate in a singular balance.
Knowing as I did that vinegar is a good counterpoint to bitter flavors–I grew up using cider vinegar to dress cooked kale, after all–I used about a teaspoon and a half of it in the marinade for the lamb. I added a teaspoon of hoisin sauce while the lamb cooked to boost the sweetness of the dish while adding complexity and a deep, dark richness to the sauce. Sugar alone will only bring simple sweetness to the flavor, while hoisin sauce adds a mysterious note that is pleasant, but difficult to place, especially if the cook is restrained in its use.
(By the way, hoisin sauce and chiangking vinegar feature in many versions of the famous Kung Pao Jiding.)
When it was done, I had to admit to liking this dish quite well, but I think that I prefer the lamb with leeks. Zak and Morganna both disagreed, however, as neither of them are as fond of leeks as I am. However, I liked the purer, clearer flavors of that dish, even though I thought the Sichuan peppercorns really made the lamb with gai lan pretty exceptional.
So–I will be making something akin to this again–maybe I will compromise and add some gai lan and Sichuan peppercorns to the original leek and lamb recipe and see if I can please everyone that way.
If not–well, there are two very hot burners on the stove, and I have more than one wok. Maybe I can cook one version for myself and Morganna can cook one for her and Zak.
Lamb and Gai Lan with Three Peppers
3/4 pound lamb flank steaks, silverskin removed and cut into 1/4″ wide strips
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chiangking vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted, ground
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 fresh ripe red jalapeno peppers (or to taste)
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1/2″ cube fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine
1/2 pound gai lan, washed–leaves and small stems trimmed, and large stems cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chicken broth
Toss lamb with soy sauce, vinegar and cornstarch. Marinate for at least twenty minutes.
Heat wok until it smokes. Add oil and heat until it shimmers in the pan. Add sichuan peppercorns, pepper, chiles, garlic, ginger, and stir fry until very fragrant–about thirty to forty seconds. Add meat, reserving any liquid that is left in the bowl. Spread into a single layer on the bottom of the wok and allow to brown for about forty to forty-five seconds, then stir fry briskly.
As a bit of the marinade ingredients begin to stick to the wok and brown, add Shao Hsing wine and deglaze the wok, then toss in gai lan stems. Keep stir frying for about forty more seconds, add the leaves of the gai lan and the hoisin sauce and chicken broth and continue stir frying until leaves grow limp and darken to a rich, shiny green, and the sauce reduces and clings tightly to the meat and greens.
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