• Yield: Serves 3-4

  • Time: 20 minutes prep, 6 minutes cooking

Tender lamb, sweet and savory hoisin sauce, crunchy water chestnuts and fresh snow peas — all give you a fast supper that's far beyond the usual takeout. Lamb is one of the hallmarks of northern Chinese cooking, especially Mongolian. It is logical when you think of the vast steppes of the region where sheep and goats thrive where little else will.

This recipe speaks of the new China, where regions sometimes fuse. Here Mongolia's lamb and southern China's beloved hoisin sauce meet with the Cantonese stir-fry.

Cook to Cook: You can substitute chicken or beef for the lamb in this recipe.

The Lamb:

  • 1 to 1-1/4 pounds tender lamb (organic if possible; lamb steaks are ideal), trimmed of fat and connective tissue, and cut into 1/2-inch by 1-inch chunks

  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder; or 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds or fennel seeds, bruised

  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1 tablespoon dry red or white wine


  • One 1-inch piece fresh peeled ginger, minced

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch dice

  • 1/2 cup water chestnuts, quartered or sliced

  • 1 handful snow pea pods, trimmed


  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or dry white wine


  • 3 tablespoons cold-pressed vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup salted cashews, roughly broken


1. Measure out, cut, and group together each section's Main Ingredients In a bowl, toss the lamb with its seasonings, including the cornstarch and wine, so it is thoroughly coated. Have the ginger and garlic ready to go into the wok, and have the onion, water chestnuts, and snow peas piled on a piece of paper towel, ready to go. In a small bowl, blend the sauce ingredients together. With this lineup, the stir-fry will easily come together in a few minutes.

2. Set a 14- to 16-inch wok or straight-sided 12-inch sauté pan over high heat. When it is hot, swirl in 1-1/2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the lamb and stir-fry for 90 seconds. Spread the lamb out as you cook it, so all its sides sear. Immediately remove the lamb to a clean bowl. Wipe out the work with a thick wad of paper towels.

3. Heat the wok again over high heat. Swirl in the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons oil. Stir in the ginger and the garlic, and stir-fry until fragrant (maybe 5 seconds), sprinkling with the salt. Immediately add the vegetables. Stir-fry for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the sauce mixture, and continue stir-frying for another 90 seconds.

4. Turn the lamb into the wok, and stir-fry for about 10 seconds to heat it through. Stir in the cashews, and turn the mixture into a serving bowl. Serve immediately.


From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter, 2008.

Sally Swift
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.