As I noted in my previous post about traveling in Tibet, Snowland Restaurant was one of the Tibetan-owned restaurants I visited while in Lhasa. At Snowland, Indian food is offered, but my friend and I ordered Tibetan. The yak stew with potatoes and lamb stew with turnips were more like soup than what we’d think of as stew, but both were very flavorful. They were served with plates of white rice, and we ladled our stews over the rice. I really liked both stews, but I figured it would be easier to get lamb here in the U.S., so that’s the stew reproduced below.
Lamb is not cut up quite the same in Tibet as it is in the U.S., so it was hard to determine exactly what cuts went into this stew, but I’m guessing the recipe was probably something along the lines of “add one whole lamb” (or, in a restaurant, add two or three). Also, the rangy, scrub-fed lambs of Tibet are heaps leaner than American lamb. That said, I found that lamb shanks and a couple of shoulder blade chops worked well. We had a few ribs in our bowls in Tibet, but the riblets I’ve found locally were very fatty, so I recommend not using them–except that they are probably the cheapest cuts of lamb that you can buy, if your budget is tight but you love lamb. Your local grocery story may not have these cuts; a real butcher or an ethnic grocer may be a better bet. In fact, an ethnic grocer may be able to just give you a 1/4 lamb.
Also note that this recipe could probably be cut in half, if you don’t want this much stew. I just got carried away buying lamb and turnips. (However, it does freeze well.)
Tibetan Lamb Stew
3 to 3-1/2 lb. bony, flavorful lamb cuts
12 cups water
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3-1/2 to 4 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
cooked white rice
Put the lamb and water in a large (8 quarts or more) pot and bring to a boil, skimming off the scum as it forms. When scum stops forming, add garlic, salt, pepper, and turnips. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours (turnips should be really soft, and the lamb should be coming off the bone).
Skim excess fat off the top of the stew (though it’s worth noting that lamb fat has many health benefits, so don’t get rid of all of it). Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. Serves 8-10.