I first had this dish at a Chinese restaurant in Milton Keynes maybe 15 years ago. I love the crispy duck English Chinese restaurants sell and this is a very similar experience, the lamb has a crisp outside and tender meat and in the same way you add sticky sauce and batons of spring onion and cucumber. You wrap it too, only this time crisp lettuce replaces the soft pancakes.
Rumour has it that people are feeling the pinch a bit at the minute and so anything using cheaper cuts has to be good. The breast of lamb used here, making enough for a couple of people, cost around a £1.50 from Islington Farmer's Market, a place not famed for its cheap prices and where a chicken last week cost me £14. Lamb breast is fatty and full of bones but if you treat it well - as with most cheap cuts - you're left with something that rivals any cut for eating pleasure. Here the long simmer in fragrant stock leaves a very tender, delicately flavoured meat that just needs a grilling till crisp to transform it to another level.
Mongolian Crispy Lamb, for 2
750gr breast of lamb
2 cm piece root ginger, finely chopped
80ml dark soy sauce
1 TB Chinese five spice
150ml rice wine
2 star anise
A couple of pieces of Chinese cinnamon, or half a cinnamon stick
1 TB dark muscovado sugar
1 TB granulated sugar
8-10 lettuce leaves
10cm of cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 5mm wide batons
3 spring onions, halved lengthways then cut into fine batons
Mix all the first group of ingredients together, place in a saucepan with the lamb and then add water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours, turning occasionally and topping up with water if it's getting too dry. You can do this the night before and leave in the fridge overnight.
There are two stages to complete, the first being to boil the stock till it reduced to a sticky sauce. The second involves grilling the lamb until crispy and heated through, once complete you pull the meat from the bones and shred.
To serve give each person a a few lettuce leaves, half of the cucumber and spring onion batons, a mound of lamb and some sauce.
To eat take a lettuce leaf, lay lamb, cucumber and spring onion inside, drizzle with a little sauce and roll.