This recipe is inspired by a famous formula found in an ancient Chinese medical text, Essential Formulas from the Golden Coffer, written in the 2nd century A.D. The original formula is called “Dang Gui, Ginger, and Lamb Soup,” and it is recommended for postpartum abdominal pain and hernias that are caused by “deficiency and cold.” In contemporary practice, this small formula is also used for menstrual cramps, amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation), and dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
We recommend our recipe for all these conditions, but in particular for menstrual cramps. As we have discussed in other recipes and blog entries, “cold” is a major concern in the world of Chinese medicine because anything that is physically cold or has the property of “coldness” constricts and tightens, and therefore is an important factor in abdominal pain. This lamb recipe is the perfect antidote for this kind of menstrual cramps because its ingredients are quite “warming.” The warmth begins with the lamb itself. Lamb is well-known in China for its “heat.” (In fact, if one has signs of heat – a sore throat, a red, itchy skin rash, etc., it is best to avoid lamb.) It warms the center, including the digestive system and abdomen, but also supplements qi and Blood. Because it warms the Kidneys as well, it is useful for treating lower back pain and erectile dysfunction. In the original recipe, the lamb is flavored with ginger, which warms and disperses, and Dang Gui (Angelica sinensis), a very important medicinal, which is “sweet, pungent, and warming.” Dang Gui is hard to find in the US and probably only available through Chinese medicine pharmacies in your nearest Chinatown. Dang Gui is commonly used in all manner of gynecological formulas because it is supplements and gently moves Blood. We encourage you to try adding it to this dish if you can (roughly 30g or one ounce per pound of meat), but not to be concerned if you can’t find it. (Dang Gui is also one of the main ingredients in Dao’s Women’s Formula, so you could also consider taking a dose of this product with your meal for additional benefits.)
Even without Dang Gui, this recipe remains very helpful for menstrual cramps because of its additional spices. Cumin and fennel both warm the lower abdomen, relieve pain, and treat hernias. Scallions, garlic, and coriander add pungency to help dispel cold. Red wine opens the blood vessels to move the Blood. The remaining spices, shichimi togarashi, Meyer lemon slices, and apricots, add both pungency and sweetness to the rich flavors of this dish. We find that the complex flavors of lamb always make it a special treat. By preparing it with these additional spices, you may find that you have also created a dish that is very therapeutic.
Braised lamb shoulder with flavors of fennel, citrus and apricot
Prep Time / Cook Time
20 minutes / around 2 ½ hours
- 1 ½ Pounds Lamb Shoulder
- 1 Small Yellow Onion, sliced
- 3-4 Cloves Garlic, chopped
- ¼ Bulb Fennel, sliced
- 1-2 Inch Ginger, chopped
- 1-2 Ounces Olive Oil
- 1/8 -1/4 Cup Butter
- ½ Teaspoon Roasted Cumin
- ½ Teaspoon Roasted Coriander
- ½ Teaspoon Shichimi Togarashi
- 4-5 Dried Apricots sliced thin
- 4-5 Scallions (Green Onion) thinly sliced
- 1 Meyer Lemon sliced thinly
- 1 Cup Red Wine
- 2 Cups Diced Tomato
- 3 Cups Veg Stock
- Salt and Pepper
Season the lamb liberally with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Brown the lamb shoulder with a little olive oil in a medium sauce pan, large enough to hold all of the recipe ingredients and set aside. In the same pan add the onion, garlic, fennel and ginger with the butter and a bit more oil if you need it and saute a few minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and togarashi and saute a few more minutes. Add the scallions, apricots and lemon and saute a couple more minutes then add the red wine and reduce until almost dry. Add the tomato and stock and bring to a boil. Add the browned lamb cover and place in the oven at 300 degrees for about 1 ½ - 2 hours. Remove from oven, remove the lid and let the lamb cool for a while in the braising liquid. Remove the lamb and set aside. Blend a quarter or a third of the braising liquid in a blender and mix back into the sauce. Whisk in a couple tablespoons of butter into the warm sauce and adjust seasoning to taste. From here you have options, we would recommend pulling or shredding the lamb and adding it back to the sauce and use this a pasta sauce or as a side with some sautéed greens and grains. This would also go well with risotto or any mixture of lightly roasted vegetables.