Xinjiang dry-fried lamb ribs

The master stock from the ribs can be boiled after you use it, strained of solids and frozen. Next time it's needed, just add water, a bit more seasoning and it's ready to go. Every time you repeat this process, the flavour and the way it seasons the food gets more mysterious and wonderful.


  • 1.5kg trimmed lamb breast, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1½ tbsp cumin seeds
  • 20g sea salt
  • 1½ tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1½ tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp sesame seed
  • Vegetable oil, for deep frying

  • For the master stock
  • Peel from ½ orange, no white pith
  • 110g rock sugar
  • 2.5 litres water
  • 320ml Shaoxing wine
  • 180ml light soy
  • 3cm piece ginger, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 3 star anise
  • ½ quill cassia bark


First make the master stock. Using a paring knife, remove any white pith from the orange peel as this will impart a bitter flavour to the stock. Roughly crush the rock sugar in a mortar with a pestle. Put the peel, sugar and all the remaining ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil, simmer for 30 minutes, then strain.

Place the lamb in the strained stock and slowly simmer for around 1½ to 2 hours. When the lamb is tender, remove from the heat and allow to cool in stock, then cut into individual ribs. Place in the fridge until completely cold (for best results, leave in the fridge overnight).

Toast the cumin, sea salt, coriander, fennel, chilli flakes and sesame seeds in a large frying pan until fragrant then set aside to cool in a large bowl. Very roughly crush using a mortar and pestle.

Add oil to a large saucepan or wok until it’s one-third to one-half full, for deep frying. Heat to 180°C. Prepare a tray lined with a rack for the cooked ribs. Deep-fry ribs in batches until golden brown. As soon as each batch of ribs come out of the oil, place on the rack to drain any excess oil. When the ribs are drained and have cooled, dust with a liberal coating of spices. Serve immediately.

NOTES: Want something to drink?
Try the Grosset Alea Riesling, 2016, Clare Valley, SA.

Redolent of white flowers, kaffir lime and herbs, this is the ideal Grosset wine to match with Asian dishes. The palate is succulent, with generous fruit, while retaining a tight, fine structure with fresh, sweeping acidity to finish. That masterful touch of sweetness is the perfect foil for the XO, but still maintains the classic zesty dry finish typical of Clare Valley rieslings.

First published in the Good Weekend.