Chef Charles Phan of The Slanted Doors came up with this delicious recipe for Lemongrass Grilled Lamb Chops using flavorings favored in Vietnamese cooking. This recipe includes fish sauce, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass, along with the heat of some Thai chilies all rounded out with the sweetness of sugar. The Slanted Door is still considered one of the great restaurants in the city by the Bay
The Making of The Slanted Doors Lemongrass Grilled Lamb Chops
Back into the way back machine, 1995. BB was the new Director of Marketing for the San Francisco Visitor's and Convention Bureau (now known as Visit San Francisco), Wille Brown was the Mayor, and Charles Phan opened The Slanted Door Restaurant in the Mission District on credit cards and a prayer, and a whole lot of culinary talent.
As the new Director of Marketing, BB decided to try to tap into the major culinary talent that graced the City of San Francisco, and change the face of the city from one of Cable Cars and a big famous Golden Gate Bridge, to one of COME EAT HERE - one of the best food destinations in the country, perhaps, at the time, the world.
This strategy worked great not only for the city and tourism but for me. I got to not only meet the great chefs, I got invited into their kitchens for a back door experience of learning and talking food, food preparation, food culture, food food food.
This is one of the great dishes I learned from Chef Phan as well as Wok Smoked Mussels and his inspiration for my Spicy Crab Noodles. And great it is. These lamb chops are not like any others. Unique with flavors of sweet/sour, salty/spicy. All charred to perfection.
INGREDIENTS, VARIATIONS, AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Lamb chops - Use a rack of lamb with the ribs cut into uniform thickness or lamb chops. If you don't like lamb you could substitute a steak or some bone-in skin-off, chicken thighs. If cooking steak, the cooking times should be about the same as lamb chops, if using chicken thighs, cook longer to ensure they are cooked through and the juices run clear.
- Fish Sauce - There are many brands, but there is no substitute. Fish sauce can be found in almost all supermarkets, online, or specialty Asian markets.
- Fresh Garlic, Fresh Ginger - Fresh and only fresh works in this recipe.
- Lemongrass - Again, fresh and only fresh. The lemongrass imparts a flavor of lemon with hints of ginger. Fresh lemongrass has floral and minty notes as well. It is very fibrous. Use only the more tender inside of the stalk.
- Thai Chiles - Thai chilies are typically ground from fresh pods to add heat to curry pastes to add both spiciness and alluring color to food. They run from mild to very hot. If you can't find Thai Chilies substitute Serrano chilies. Leaving the seeds in either chile will increase the heat factor, so beware of the heat before you add them.
- Sugar - Granulated sugar. The sugar will help balance the heat while adding a glaze to the chops while they cook. If you don't use sugar, use Stevia. I do not recommend using brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey, as the flavors are too intense.
- A BBQ Grill or Charcoal Grill - For best results, these chops should be grilled over an open flame. If you don't have a gas or charcoal grill you might get good results under a broiler. Just protect your pan as the sugar in the glaze may burn while cooking resulting in a dishwashing nightmare.
STEP BY STEP FOR PERFECT GRILLED LAMB CHOPS
I used a rack of lamb, so I needed to cut them into individual serving pieces. These are all about 1 ½ inches thick. If using lamb sirloin chops you should not have to cut them.
While the recipe says to finely mince all the ingredients, which is a fine and dandy way to do it, I like to rough chop my garlic, ginger, peppers, and lemongrass, and place it into a food processor to let the machine do the work. My mini food processor, the Ninja, makes quick work of the job. As you can see, I left the seeds in my Serrano peppers (I couldn't find any red Thai chilies). This did make for a "spicy" marinade.
Use on/off pulses until your aromatics are finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides when necessary.
Put the chops into a zip-top bag pressing to remove the air. Zip the top and put it in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours to marinate.
Once the lamb chops have marinated, remove them from the bag leaving any tiny bits of marinade on them. These will add great flavor after being on the grill. Discard any remaining marinade.
Set your grill up for off-heat cooking. Place the chops on the hot part of the grill and cook until browned with a bit of char. If the chops are not cooked as you desire, I like my lamb medium-rare, about 145ºF (63ºC), then move them to the cool side of the grill, close the lid, and let them finish without the fire, just the heat generated by the on-side of the grill.
Perfect. Served with Fresh Grilled Sesame Asparagus and a Strawberry and Baby Greens Salad this dish just screams "IT'S SPRING"
LET'S TALK FISH SAUCE
Fish sauce is made from salted anchovies or other fish that have been fermented for up to 2 years. Most commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking, fish sauce lends its rich, savory, earthy, and umami flavor to many dishes, including pad thai, pho, green papaya salad, and stir-fries
While there are many brands on the market, after trying other brands I find I prefer Red Boat fish sauce. Red Boat fish sauce is made with only the finest black anchovy found in the waters off the Phu Quoc island Archipelago. Made without chemicals, this fish sauce also contains no sugar and is gluten-free.
Fish sauce imparts great flavor, but I don't recommend you smelling it as it smells rather, fishy.
Because the fish sauce is fermented, it lasts a year or more in the refrigerator. But once you get used to using it, I think you will find many more uses than just this recipe.
MORE DELICIOUS LAMB RECIPES
The Slanted Doors Lemongrass Grilled Lamb Chops
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 3 - 5 Thai chilies seeded* and finely minced (OR Serrano chili)
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 8 lean lamb chops
- Combine the fish sauce and sugar in a bowl; stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the garlic, ginger, and chilies.
- Cut off about ½ inch from the bottom of the lemongrass stalks, and peel back 2 or 3 of the tough outer layer. Mince the remaining part of the stalks very fine. Stir into the fish sauce mixture.
- Put the lamb chops into a zip-top bag and add the marinade. Push all the air out of the bag, and close. Refrigerate for 2 - 3 hours.
- Set your gas or charcoal grill up for indirect cooking. Heat your gas or charcoal grill to high. Remove the lamb chops from the marinade, leaving any little bits of marinade on the chop. Discard the remaining marinade Grill the chops to your desired degree of doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, moving them on and off heat as necessary to prevent burning.