Assorted Livestock 9: Flame-broiled Mutton (燒羊肉)

“Cut a large five to seven jin chunk of mutton into large pieces, and skewer them on iron skewers to broil over flames. The mutton’s flavours are delectably sweet and its texture crisp. It is no wonder the thought of it caused Emperor Renzong of Song Dynasty such cravings in middle of the night.”


“I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes I saw the sign…” (Credit: Daniel Case)

Eating grilled or broiled mutton (not lamb) is one of those great pleasures of life. The anticipation of biting down on those the sizzling morsels of meat dripping with hot rendering fat, right as they are pulled off the smoking flames…simply thinking about it is unbearable.

In French cuisine, there is a saying that milk itself is a soup and butter is itself a sauce. I would say that out of all the meats, it is only mutton (not lamb) with it powerful aromatic stench and rich fat, that provides its own robust seasoning. While dusting the meat with cumin and chili powder is the norm in Beijing and much of China, or the additions of pepper or mint jelly by the misguided, all a good skewer of flame-broiled mutton really needs is a healthy (or for that matter, un-healthy) sprinkling of salt. That itself is enough to elevate this rather prosaic stick of semi-charred meat into the realm of the divine. It’s no wonder the Emperor craved it so much as to rouse him from sleep… (唐宋文醇·卷二十六)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to march myself down to the hole-in-the-wall at Dundas and Spadina and order myself a few skewers. While it may not the best, it’s only 10 mins away. And to being able to sate one’s late-night cravings in this manner, it ain’t half bad.


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