Two whole lamb shanks, each about half a kilogram in weight, are plunged in hot oil to brown, scooped out then slow cooked with spices in a mixture of coconut milk and cider. Coconut cream is added toward the end to create a thick and creamy sauce.
What spices? Curry powder is already a combination of ground spices but that’s hardly enough to flavor the lamb. The curry powder is combined with shallots, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and star anise to serve as a base for a tasty sauce.
Star anise gives the lamb curry a lovely earthiness while kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass add citrusy notes. The combination of shallots, garlic and ginger provide the boldness required to neutralize the strong aroma of the lamb.
Why use cider in a curry dish? Cider, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented apples, gives the dish a wonderful aroma and a tartness that blends beautifully with the sweetness of coconut milk and cream.
You may serve the lamb shank coconut curry over rice sprinkled with cilantro and mint. Or, you may place the lamb shanks in a serving bowl with the sauce, and rice on the side.
Lamb shank coconut curry
- 2 lamb shanks - about 1 kilogram total weight
- cooking oil - for deep frying
- 3 tablespoons curry powder - yellow, green or red will all work; you may also use curry paste
- 2 pairs kaffir lime leaves - deveined and thinly sliced
- 2 shallots - peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 stalks lemongrass - (white portion of the stalks only) peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic - peeled and lightly pounded
- 1 two-inch knob ginger - peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 star anise
- 1 bottle cider - I used Strongbow
- 2 cups coconut milk
- fish sauce - to taste
- 1 cup coconut cream
- cilantro - (leaves only) to garnish
- mint - (leaves only) to garnish
- Rinse the lamb shanks then pat dry with paper towels.
- Heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches in a large wok or frying pan.
- Carefully slide the lamb shanks into the hot oil. Cook over high heat until browned. If the shanks are not completely submerged in oil, flip them over for even browning.
- Scoop out the lamb shanks and set aside.
- Pour off the oil from the pan, leaving only about a tablespoonful.
- Throw in the curry powder, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and star anise. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until aromatic.
- Put the lamb shanks back in the pan.
- Pour in the cider. Allow to boil uncovered for a few minutes.
- Pour in the coconut milk. Season with fish sauce. Cover the pan tightly and set the heat to low.
- Braise the lamb shanks for an hour or longer, flipping them halfway through the cooking, until the meat is tender. Taste the sauce once in a while and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- When the lamb shanks are done, pour in the coconut cream to thicken the sauce. Swirl the pan around to blend evenly. When the sauce simmers, turn off the heat.
- Taste the sauce one last time and add fish sauce, if necessary.