North-western Chinese lamb skewers

November 10, 2014 (Last Updated: January 11, 2019)

By Tom Parker Bowles

“These Yang Rou Chuan (spicy lamb kebabs) offered welcome relief from the dried seahorses and snakeskins on skewers at the tourist markets in Beijing. They’re actually a speciality of the Xinjiang province, in north-west China – a place of bitter winters, where lamb is a staple. Simple, smoky and scented with cumin, this really should be done on the barbecue, as the chilli fumes will make you cough. Or turn the extractor fan up really high, to suck away the fumes.”

North-western Chinese lamb skewers

Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 1 hour


  • 600g boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2,5cm chunks
  • 45ml (3 tbsp) cumin seeds, toasted until fragrant, then ground in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) sea salt
  • 45ml (3 tbsp) groundnut/sunflower oil
  • lemon/lime wedges, to serve



Soak 12 wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.


Light your barbecue and wait until the coals are white-hot. Alternatively, heat a griddle pan until smoking hot.


Add 3 pieces of meat to each skewer. Mix together the cumin, chilli and salt on a plate. Pour the oil onto a second plate. Roll the skewers of meat in the oil and then in the spices, until well coated. Grill on the barbecue or in the griddle pan, 3 – 4 minutes on each side (the meat should still be pink inside). Remove from heat and set aside to rest for 1 minute. Serve with a squeeze of lemon or lime

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