We love the old-world, gruff charm of Kao Rou Ji restaurant in Beijing’s Houhai precinct. This gorgeous area is right on the lake and although it has been hijacked somewhat by souvenir shops and pizza joints, it still speaks of a time when life was a little less polished and a lot less Westernised. The dining room is filled with the smells of cumin and lamb and barbecued meat and this dish reminds us of being there.






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (43 votes)


  • 700 g (1 lb 9 oz) boneless lamb leg, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/ ¼ cup) clear rice wine
  • 2 leeks, white part only
  • 80 ml (2½  fl oz/ ⅓ cup) vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely shredded
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1½  tbsp black rice vinegar
  • 1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves and stems coarsely chopped

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Marinating time 2 hours

Using a sharp knife, cut the lamb across the grain into very thin slices. Place in a large bowl with the cornflour, cumin seeds, dark soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the rice wine. Use your hands to gently toss everything together, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and wash well, then cut the halves on the diagonal into thin strips. Heat half of the oil in a large wok over a medium–high heat, then add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring constantly so the leeks don’t turn brown, for 2–3 minutes, or until softened slightly. Remove to a bowl. Add the remaining oil to the wok and increase the heat to high, then add the lamb, using kitchen tongs to open the slices out so they cook evenly (as best as you can). Cook the lamb, stirring often, for 2–3 minutes, or until all the slices have changed colour. Add the remaining ingredients (reserving a handful of coriander leaves), the leeks and the remaining rice wine and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until well combined and heated through. Divide among bowls, scatter over the reserved coriander and serve immediately


Image and recipe extracted from The Real Food of China by Leanne Kitchen & Antony Suvalko, published by Hardie Grant Books (RRP $69.95). Available in stores nationally and at the SBS Shop.