Peter Chang’s Cumin Lamb. (Renee Comet/For the Washington Post; styling by Bonnie S. Benwick)

P eter Chang’s cumin lamb is fast and fierce, as much of the daily wok cooking goes at his newest restaurants in Arlington and Rockville. In the old days in China, he says via business partner Gen Lee, meat for the dish was seasoned and roasted whole, for hours.

The restaurateurs decided to use thin lamb chops instead, marinated briefly, stir-fried on the bone for more flavor, then vibrantly spiced with a last-minute hit of numbing Sichuan pepper and toasted ground cumin. Crisp-tender vegetables, dried chili peppers and cilantro complete the heap served sizzling hot. That, and Chang’s deft bamboo fish, have remained the most-ordered dishes on the menu.

The trick to keeping the lamb so tender? A few pre-marinade whacks with a meat pounder. Chang expects his diners to use the bones as handles, for easy eating.

Serve with steamed rice.

Shaoxing cooking wine, light (thin) soy sauce, Maggi Seasoning sauce and Sichuan peppercorns are available at large Asian markets.

MAKE AHEAD: The lamb chops need to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.


4 servings


8 lamb rib chops (about 1 1/4 pounds total)

2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine (see headnote)

2 tablespoons light soy sauce (see headnote)

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon Maggi Seasoning sauce (see headnote)

Freshly ground white pepper

  1 /2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns (see headnote)

1 teaspoon cumin seed

Vegetable oil

6 to 8 scallions

1 medium carrot, trimmed, scrubbed well and cut into very thin matchsticks (julienne)

1 medium white onion, cut into thin matchsticks or half-moons

6 to 8 small dried red chili peppers (unseeded)

1 handful small sprigs of cilantro, plus more for garnish


Place the lamb chops between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Pound just enough to flatten the meat to half its original thickness; it should remain attached to the bone.

Transfer to a zip-top bag along with the Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, Maggi Seasoning, several grinds of white pepper and  1 /4 teaspoon of the ground Sichuan peppercorns. Seal and massage to coat. Cover and marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Toast the cumin seed in a dry wok or skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan to avoid scorching. Cool, then grind in a dedicated spice grinder. Transfer to a small bowl.

Heat just enough oil to thinly coat a wok or high-sided skillet; place over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the scallions (1 bunch; to taste); cook undisturbed for 1 or 2 minutes, just until lightly browned, then discard the scallions, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.

Add to the bowl with marinating lamb chops the julienned carrot and onion, the dried chili peppers (to taste) and a small handful of short cilantro sprigs, tossing to coat.

Add the mixture to the hot scallion oil; increase the heat to medium-high. Stir-fry vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure the meat gets evenly seared but is not overcooked. Season the stir-fried lamb chops with the toasted, ground cumin and the remaining   1 /4 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns; stir-fry for 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant and well distributed.

Serve right away, garnished with a few more cilantro sprigs.

Adapted from chef-restaurateur Peter Chang.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Recipe: Cumin Lamb

Recipe Finder

More Plate Lab

For stories, features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.

Follow the Magazine on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook.

E-mail us at