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Lamb Kebabs

Barbecued Lamb Kebabs – Chinese Lamb Skewers(新疆羊肉串)

Xinjiang lamb, known throughout the country, is not only tasty and tender but is also milder in flavor than lamb found throughout the rest of China. Lamb kebabs are popular all year round and can be found sizzling away on street stall barbecues along the streets of Urumqi, costing as little as three dollars. It’s not just the price that has everyone eating them, it’s the rich cumin flavor that goes so perfectly with lamb.
Course Snack
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 2


  • Place the fire starter on the bottom rack and arrange the charcoal around it in a circle, and then pile some on top.
  • Light the fire starter with a match to ignite.
  • Then add a few pieces of charcoal above the flame. Charcoal takes at least 20 minutes to fully ignite, so be generous with the fire starter cubes.
  • The open flame will gradually die down and the coals will begin to hold a glow.
  • When part of the charcoal surface has turned gray, indicating it has been lit, then quickly put the barbecue lid on and open the upper and lower vents, so that sufficient heat and air is maintained to keep the charcoal alight.
  • The coals are ready to cook on once all surfaces of the charcoal have turned gray. While you are waiting for this, prepare your lamb kebabs.
  • Many parts of the lamb are suitable for kebabs, except perhaps the lower leg, where the tendon is too tight and is really only used for slow cook stewing. Today, we are using forequarter chops, which are from the shoulders. These have moderate fat, and they are very reasonably priced.
  • Cut the lamb into 1.5 cm square pieces, and then thread each piece onto bamboo skewers. Soak the bamboo skewers in advance for two hours to avoid them burning and, gulp! catching fire on the barbecue.
  • Try not to put too many fatty pieces on the skewers because the fat will drip onto the coals and blacken the meat.
  • Kebabs can be enjoyed by all, whether it is the simple process of barbecuing or the eating, they are a feast of pleasure. In Australia, kitchens are still the domain of women, but when it comes to a barbecue, the men are in control. The women happily prepare the food and leave all the outdoor cooking to the men. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is the more enjoyable activity.
  • And now for the flavoring (I know you’ve been wondering). Xinjiang flavored lamb skewers are very simple: salt, cumin powder, paprika. Nothing more. The seasonings need to wait until the lamb changes color. First, add the salt.
  • Add some cumin powder and paprika. Freshly ground cumin is best as it has the most amazing fragrance, but ready ground cumin powder bought in the supermarket will do very well.
  • When grinding your own cumin, heat it first in a pan, let it cool, and then grind in a small food processor or spice grinder. If you are worried about the cumin powder falling onto the hot coals and smoking black smoke onto the skewers, take them off the barbecue and put them on a plate to sprinkle with cumin.
  • When the lamb is a beautiful golden yellow, it is ready to eat. Serve with yogurt and your favorite salad.