沙茶羊肉炒空心菜 (sha cha yang rou chao kong xin cai) Lamb stir fried with water spinach and seasoned with Taiwanese barbecue sauce would be the long and most informative title of this dish, but let us just call it Stir Fried Lamb with Water Spinach.
This recipe comes from the first cookbook I bought in Taiwan, 77 道台灣小吃. The cookbook has it’s recipes first in Chinese and then translated into English. In the book the English title of the recipe was simply “Fry Lamb.” Often the English translations contain a few mistakes, omissions, or mistranslations I later learned as my Chinese ability improved some.
Lamb may not be the meat one thinks of when one thinks of East Asian cooking, but lamb, though less common than say pork or chicken, is quite popular in Taiwan. So as it would seem would be goat. When I lived in Taitung there were streets that seemed to house nothing but goat meat restaurants. And if one rides their bicycle around the hills outside of the city one should take care to avoid the herds of seemingly “free range” goats and the rather slick road surface they tend to create. Anyway, this recipe is a pretty common way to find lamb prepared and one of my favorites. If you do not have lamb or goat you can of course substitute beef (I often substitute venison, since I find the flavor to complement the dish quite well). Beyond the meat you will need a couple special ingredients. One is a fairly easy to find sauce, and the other is a less than common vegetable.
The sauce in question is Taiwanese Barbecue Sauce, 沙茶醬 (sha cha jiang). Which interestingly enough I don’t think I have ever used for barbecue, though I often use it for a dipping sauce when I eat hot pot. I generally use Bull Head Brand Barbecue Sauce, you can find it at most Asian grocery stores.
The vegetable is Water Spinach,空心菜 (kong xin cai), literally “hollow heart vegetable” in Chinese. It is a sort of curious wetland vegetable with hollow stems that float. The flavor is like a mild spinach with a nice, slightly crunchy texture from the stems. Water Spinach can be a little difficult to find. I usually only get it when I go up to the big city. But I never pass up a chance to get it, just check out the produce section of your local Asian market and you might get lucky.
- 8 oz. thinly sliced lamb
- 10 oz. water spinach, washed and chopped into inch and a half long pieces
- 1 T. chopped garlic
- 1/2 T. chopped garlic
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 1 T. rice wine
- 1 T. corn starch
- 3 T. Taiwanese barbecue sauce
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 t. sugar
- 1 chopped red chilli pepper
- In a bowl mix together the “Marinade” ingredients (garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, and corn starch), add the sliced lamb, mix to coat evenly. Let sit for at least 10 minutes (prior to frying mix in 1/2 T. of oil so the pieces separate easier during cooking)
- Heat a wok over high heat, when hot add 3 T. of oil. Add the lamb and stir fry until done. Remove the lamb to a bowl.
- Return the wok to the heat. Add 1 T. of chopped garlic to the wok and fry until fragrant. Add the water spinach and stir fry until the leaves are wilting and dark green (about 1 – 2 minutes).
- Return the lamb to the wok. Add the “Seasoning” ingredients (Taiwanese barbecue sauce, salt, sugar, and chilli pepper). Stir fry for 1 minute more until well combined. Serve with rice.