Xinjiang dry-fried lamb ribs

Neil Perry
Neil Perry's Xingjang dry-fried lamb ribs.
Neil Perry's Xingjang dry-fried lamb ribs. Photo: William Meppem

Try a master stock that lifts lamb ribs to spice heaven. This recipe works best when you begin preparing the day before serving. The lamb breast gives us the lamb version of pork belly, with the rib bones still attached and the skin and fat trimmed.

Ingredients

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

Method

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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).

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. When the ribs are drained and have cooled, dust with a liberal coating of spices. Serve immediately.

*Note: 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.