Jingisukan is a regional dish from Hokkaido made with thinly sliced lamb (sometimes marinated) which is grilled with crunchy vegetables and served with a fruity Asian sauce. Learn how to make this classic Hokkaido speciality at home!
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What is jingisukan?
Jingisukan is a Hokkaido speciality dish, where lamb is cooked raw or marinated in a sauce and grilled in a distinctive pan with vegetables such as onions, bean sprouts, peppers and carrots. It is eaten in almost all parts of Hokkaido, as well as jingisukan restaurants all across Japan.
It's typically served with a sweet dipping sauce and rice. (Keeping with the Hokkaido theme, I also enjoy eating Jingisukan with a refreshing Sapporo beer!)
Brief history of jingisukan
In the Taisho era (1912-1926), when wool imports saw a steep decline, cotton sheep farming was encouraged as a national policy. At that time, cotton sheep farming also became popular in Hokkaido, and it is said that the locals began consuming lamb. Since then, farming has changed from cotton to lamb because the amount of imported cotton began to increase again.
If you often eat Japanese food, you might have noticed that lamb dishes are not so common. Jingisukan is one of a few lamb dishes in Japanese cuisine.
There are various theories as to the origin of jingisukan, but it is said to have been invented around the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1946) with reference to a Chinese roast lamb dish.
As you may have guessed, jingisukan is believed to be named after the infamous Genghis Khan. I'm sure it's not a coincidence, but another interesting fact is that the grill used to cook jingisukan looks almost identical to the Mongolian grill.
Two different types of jingisukan
As lamb has a distinctive odour, there are two ways of eating jingisukan:
- Grilled raw and dipped in jingisukan sauce
- Marinated in soy sauce based sauce
There is no right or wrong in this, but in my recipe, I make my own jingisukan dipping sauce and don't marinate. You can find that in Japanese supermarket's lamb section if they have one, where they always offer those two kinds. At the end of the day, it's all to do with your preference or which type you're more familiar with.
You might wonder where you can get the distinctive jingisukan grill. It's actually not widely available even in Japan (outside of Hokkaido at least). I bought mine online from wholesale shop for restaurants.
There are two types of jingisukan grills: one with holes and and one without. The one with holes is similar to a Korean style grill and the one without holes is more like a "Mongolian grill". These grill plates are mainly made of cast iron, such as Nambu ironware, and have a unique shape with a raised central section like a helmet.
This is designed to cook the lamb in the raised centre and the vegetables in the lowered periphery, so that the juice and fat from the lamb can drip downwards along the grooves to season the vegetables.
If a jingisukan grill is not available, especially at home, a frying pan is used instead. You just have to make sure to mix the vegetables around the pan so they cook in the fat from the lamb.
However, as I mentioned earlier, the "Mongolian BBQ grill" I found on Amazon USA is almost identical to the jingisukan grill I have! If you want to make jingisukan in proper setup, it's worth checking it out! You can buy it here. (Affiliate link)
Vegetables to use for jingisukan
You might wonder, what kind of vegetables you can use for jingisukan? Again, there is no solid rule on that. However, the vegetables listed below are the most common ones to use for jingisukan. A lot of them are easily accessible around the world, so pick what you like and make your own jingisukan!
- White onions
- Bell peppers
- Chinese chives
- Sweet corn
- Any kind of mushrooms...etc
When I took the picture, I personally used:
- Green cabbage
- Shiitake mushroom
- Chinese chives
I hope this list helps you decide what kind of vegetables you would like to eat with your own personal jingisukan!
Compared to yakiniku sauce, jingisukan sauce is more sour, less sweet, less garlicy and more gingery. In Japan, you can sometimes find pre-made sauce at supermarkets.
However, pre-made sauce is not so accessible, so I decided to make my own homemade jingisukan sauce in this recipe. Because it needs to have a lot of different ingredients to create a deep and complex flavour, I made it from following ingredients:
- Lemon juice
- Chilli powder
- Rice vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Red wine
- Brown sugar
- Sesame seeds
The list seems a lot but I basically cut solid ingredients into small chunks and make them into paste with food processor (the quantities and steps can be found in recipe card at the bottom) then heat up in a small pan.
If you do no have any food processor, you can grate each solid ingredient instead. In that case, you can use apple juice instead of apple, pineapple juice instead of pineapple to make it easier.
My way of eating jingisukan at home
As I mentioned already, there are different ways of cooking and eating jingisukan and there is no single right way. So, in here, I will explain how I eat jingisukan with my recipe at home.
Cook the lamb meat first to season the grill
First, I only cook the lamb meat without any vegetables. The reason is simple, that is to let the lamb meat release its fat and juice all around the grill, in a way it's oiling the surface. That way, vegetables that will be added after will be cooked in the juices from the lamb, delicious!
Preheat the grill on a medium heat and add the lamb. Be sure to season it with salt and pepper and cook until browned.
Flip them over and eat as they are
Once one side is browned, flip them over and cook the other side until browned as well. For the first batch, you can either eat them as they are (simply seasoned with salt and pepper) or dip in the sauce already.
I personally eat the first ones only with salt and pepper to enjoy the lamb meat as it is!
Add more lamb and vegetables
Add another batch of lamb meat on top and vegetables around lower edges. The idea is lamb meat's juice and fat drizzles down to vegetables. This adds extra jingisukan flavour to the vegetables too!
Enjoy with homemade sauce
Once the lamb and vegetables are cooked enough, dip them into the homemade sauce and enjoy! It's basically a BBQ so repeat the process until your ingredients run out!
Jingisukan is one of the most famous regional dishes to come from Hokkaido and it's truly delicious! I hope you enjoy my take on this special Japanese lamb dish with my homemade fruity sauce!Print