Updated: Apr 26
I have made this classic Vietnamese dish a number of times and really enjoy the slow braised, fall-off-the-bone tender lamb skanks paired with the sweet potatoes. This dish highlights the complexities of Vietnamese food, chilies, lemongrass, fish sauce, and star anise, they all come together with the heavy meat in a richly flavored stew. The long braise allows the Vietnamese spices and herbs to integrate well and the flavors penetrate the meat. For those of us who are averse to lamb, you can substitute chicken (45 minutes of braise time) or make a veget I served this stew with basmati rice, jasmine rice pairs just as well, and it is nice to pair it with some lightly sautéed greens to balance the richness of the stew. See recipes for Sichuan-style bok choy, or Indonesian-style golden vegetable stir fry.
I am a huge fan of Diana Henry, I have every single cookbook of hers and am always excited to cook from her books. This recipe stood out to me because I was craving Vietnamese flavors, and it hit the spot. The dish, like all of her recipes, was outstanding. This is a cookbook you will definitely see me come back to often. For more recipes from this cookbook click here.
2 tablespoons neutral oil
4 lamb shanks, cleaned and trimmed of membranes
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ginger paste
2 tablespoons garlic paste
2 red chilies halved and deseed. You can chop it for a spicier flavor
1 tablespoons jaggery or palm sugar plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 - 1 star anise, left whole
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, then bruised
3 cups lamb or chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato purée
3-4 sweet potatoes , peeled and cut into big chunks
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Juice of 2 limes, or to your taste
1 handful mint leaves, torn
1 handful basil leaves, Thai preferred, torn
Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3.
Heat 1 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole, season the shanks with salt, then brown them 2-3 at a time on all sides, adding the remaining oil for the second batch. set aside.
Add the onions and fry them quite briskly, about 30 secs, add the ginger, garlic and chopped chilli, then turn the heat down and cook for 1 min. Add the sugar, stir, then add the star anise, lemongrass, stock, purée and seasoning. Bring to the boil.
Cover and cook in the oven for 1 3/4 hours. Alternatively, you can slow simmer this on the stove top. You should see the meat shrinking on the bone and feel it getting to be quite tender with a fork.
Add the sweet potatoes, submerge them in the braising liquid, adding a touch more water or stock as needed, and cook for 30 minutes more. The lamb should be completely tender and almost falling off the bones. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and 1 teaspoon sugar to just lift the flavour, Be very careful when stirring the sauce, the sweet potatoes are completely cooked, and you do not want them to disintegrate.
To serve, scatter with the mint, basil and the sliced chili.