David Tanis’ Wok-Fried Lamb with Cumin

Cumin, chiles and lamb make this one good dish, indeed.

Cumin, chiles and lamb make this one good dish, indeed.


I’ve always loved the no-nonsense, forthright title of Chef David Tanis‘ 2013 cookbook, “One Good Dish” (Artisan).

I’ve enjoyed even more the recipes inside, created by the former co-chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

So many recipes from other chefs come packed to the gills with flourishes and garnishes that are a project in and of themselves.

Tanis pares that all away in this book. As he rightly states: A meal  doesn’t have to be complicated, complex or cumbersome. Sometimes all it takes is one splendid dish to satisfy.


This  book is full of those kinds of dishes, the type you really want to make — and can make without tearing your hair out.  Find everything from “Cornmeal Popovers” to “Potato Salad with Peppers and Olives” to “Quick Scallion Kimchee” to “Spanish Pork Skewers.”

“Wok-Fried Lamb with Cumin” appealed to me because of its Muslim-Chinese roots. Cumin is not a spice you find rampant in Chinese food. Its use originated in the Northwest provinces that bordered Mongolia. Its pungent aroma, dusky hue, and peppery, earthy, nutty flavor are unmistakable. It is a natural with lamb.

The only change I made to this dish was to add a dash of soy sauce, which upped the savory or umami flavor just a tad more.

This dish is one of those great weeknight wonders. It comes together in a flash. All you need do is make some steamed rice to go with it, and you have a complete meal. After all, that’s the beauty of one good dish.

Wok-Fried Lamb with Cumin

(Serves 3 or 4)

1 pound boneless lean lamb, cut into strips 1/4-inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

12 small dried red chile pepper, or more if desired

A 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine julienne

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

6 scallions, thinly slivered

Put the lamb into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the cornstarch. Mix with your fingers to combine.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or wide cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and dried chiles. When they begin to sizzle, add the lamb, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce; toss well to coat the lamb, and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the lamb is slightly browned. Add the sesame oil, cilantro, and scallions and transfer to a serving dish.

Adapted from “One Good Dish” by David Tanis


More Lamb Recipes to Try: Lamb Adobo Taco with Spices and Orange from Tacolicious


And: Lamb Shoulder Steak with Japanese Curry Oil by Tadashi Ono


And: “Incredible Lamb Fricassee My Way” by Jamie Oliver


And: Lamb Steaks with Soy, Vinegar and Garlic by Jacques Pepin


And: Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint Salsa Verde by Melissa Clark


And: Turkish Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Shoulder Chops and Carrots by Bruce Aidells

Print This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *