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Chinese Lamb Stew

With Humboldt wild mushrooms



As the remaining sunlight shone through my kitchen widow, I was busy cleaning the wild chanterelle and porcini mushrooms I had just received. I love fall — the crisp air, the harvest joy and the anticipation of upcoming holidays. Lamb is my favorite meat to make during fall: lamb stew, lamb and chive dumplings, lamb burgers with wild mushrooms and so on. Every year after the Humboldt County Fair, I try to buy enough to last until spring, either a whole lamb or packages of fresh cuts from Ferndale Meat Co. I feel so blessed living in Humboldt, there is always that farm-to-table availability. Most of my Asian friends prefer lamb spareribs, which thank goodness are not very popular in American cooking and so cheap and easy to get. The meat of the sparerib is tender and flavorful, l prefer it over lamb chops. My favorite dish is lamb rib stew. My dad used to make it for us during the chilly winters in China. He always said lamb meat will keep you warm like the wool. I use my dad's recipe but with a few little twists, like using local wild mushrooms when in season instead of the traditional dried shiitake. I soak the soy sheets instead of deep frying them for a healthier choice. I also like to add a few carrots for a sweet taste and to make a nutritionally balanced meal. My mom only likes to eat the mushrooms and soy sheets, since they are soft and tasty after they soak up the fats and spices. I often make it as a one dish meal with extra rice — I know my kids will want seconds. 

Lamb Spareribs Stew

The cornstarch mixture is for thickening the gravy, which you can skip if you're avoiding starch. You can also substitute the lamb with pork spareribs or chicken wings. Serves 5 to 6.

2 pounds lamb breast ribs, trimmed and chopped into bite size pieces

8 large ginger slices, lightly smashed

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, smashed

10 Sichuan peppercorns 

2 Thai chili peppers 

6 jujube red dates (optional) 

½ cups roasted soybeans

½ pound soy sheets or 1 pound grilled firm tofu 

1 to 2 pounds fresh, cleaned wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles, porcini, matsutake or shiitake)

½ pound chopped carrot 

1 tablespoon brown sugar 

1 tablespoon soy sauce 

2 tablespoons oyster sauce 

2 tablespoons cornstarch mix

¼ cup rice wine or water to dissolve the cornstarch

Salt and white pepper to taste 

Green onion for garnish 

In separate bowls, soak both the roasted soybeans and soy sheets (if you're using them) about 2 hours or until they soften.

In a large cooking pan, cover the ribs with hot water, adding 2 pieces of ginger and a few sprigs of green onion. Cook over lowest heat for 30 minutes, then rinse and drain the ribs to get rid of some fat and blood, then set aside.

Clean out the pot and use it to heat the vegetable oil. Add the remaining ginger, garlic, peppercorns and chilis and stir fry until aromatic. Add the ribs and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add water to just cover the meat and cook on high with the lid on for 25 minutes. Skim any fat that floats to the surface and add the soy beans, carrots and jujubes. Mix well and turn to medium heat, simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and soy sheets (or tofu), and simmer for another 20 minutes. Finally, add the brown sugar, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir well and cook for a few minutes before adding the cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup of rice wine or water. Once thickened, place the stew in a bowl or clay pot and garnish with green onion. Serve with steamed rice.

You can find Home Cooking with Wendy Chan classes benefitting local charities on Facebook. She prefers she/her.

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