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Jul 31, 2012 09:30 AM

Cumin Lamb - Washington DC/Baltimore Dish of the Month August 2012

Announcing the August 2012 Washington DC/Baltimore Dish of the Month: Cumin Lamb

Link to Voting Thread:
Link to Nomination Thread:

The goal is to collectively try as many versions of cumin lamb as possible during the month of August! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos of the best cumin lamb you can find.

For those less familiar with the dish, you can read what Chowhounds across the world have been saying about the dish:

Looks like there are some great places in Washington DC and Baltimore to get it, but hopefully this will inspire people to discover new places too!

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  1. We ended up at Mala Tang last night since the gf was craving Chinese, and we were around Arlington. I had never been, but heard pretty good things (apparently the chef is the same one from Hong Kong Palace, which I've heard good things about). Saw they had Cumin Lamb on the menu and had to try it. The dish was pretty good (I really had no idea what to expect) - it was like a dry stir fry with onions and peppers (with some Szechuan peppers sprinkled throughout giving it a little spice and numbing). The lamb was pretty thin, and it was hard to detect any real lamb flavor, but the meat was good, pretty well seasoned with cumin and tender. I had never had this dish before, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but we'd order it again.

    PS - The rest of the meal was pretty good (especially once we discovered their "spice bar". We had a hot pot, which was fine, but I'm not a huge hot pot person - it was more a novelty for my gf. The beef wasn't the best though - granted, we got the sirloin, which was the cheapest beef. The Zhong dumplings were solid, but I had expected them to be better. The spicy cucumber salad was pretty much just cucumber spears, but when dipped in some of the spicy-vinegar-ey sauce from the sauce bar they were pretty good. The Dan Dan noodles were good, once dressed with some hot pepper, green onions, cilantro and the spicy-vinegar-ey sauce from the spice bar (before we dressed it up though it was pretty bland).

    4 Replies
    1. re: mdpilam

      Nice report. What is a "spice bar" ? I am picturing a salsa bar/salad bar type area where they have different sauces/spices?

      1. re: Dave MP

        Exactly. They had crushed dried peppers, spicy paste (which reminded me of the Korean fermented soybean paste), a spicy-vinegar-ey sauce, and onions, cilantro, etc...

      2. re: mdpilam

        I went there two weeks ago to try the Sichuan specialties, and they were quite disappointed we did not take them up on the hot pot. Did you find that the hot pot was unusually expensive there as compared to other hot pot experiences you've had?

        We really enjoyed the ma po tofu and the cold spicy noodles (an appetizer). Unfortunately my dining partners were averse to spice, so we had a couple more basic dishes that were nothing too special, an eggplant entree, some mediocre soup dumplings, and a crunchy shredded beef dish. The noodles were excellent and nicely spiced with the numbing pepper, so I am optimistic about future visits.

        1. re: hamster

          Hot pot was very overpriced, and the meat (granted we got the "cheaper" grade) wasn't very good. I would definitely stay away from the hot pot.

      3. We are now a week away for the end of the month and there has been one posting on the "Dish of the Month."

        Even the people who voted in favor of it over other "regional" fare haven't tried the dish or - if they have - posted a report on it.

        I hate being a sore loser, but I bet dozens of us have had local crab, in one form or another, over the last 3 weeks . . . .

        7 Replies
        1. re: drewpbalzac

          I was thinking that same thing, drewp, and yes, I have had crab a couple times over the past few weeks.

          I realize this requires some effort on our parts, i.e. going to places that have cumin lamb on the menu this month - but my past few meals out have been totally dictated by location, convenience or someone else's choice. And many of those places had crab on the menu!

          1. re: VaPaula

            My gripe is more general.

            It just seems to me that if you are going to have a dish of the month on a regional board - the dish should have some tie to the region.

            It doesn't even necessarily have to be a regional ingredient - but it should be something that is a mark of the region for one reason or another. Crab, half-smoke, Bahn-Mi, Pho, stuffed ham, beaten biscuits (good luck even finding one of them), Smith Island Cake, Eastern Shore roadside bbq'd chicken, scrapple, Rockfish, lake trout, pit beef . . . . .

              1. re: drewpbalzac

                But...many of those aren't regional to this area. Certainly not Bahn-Mi or Pho.

                I understand your gripe. I put it out there b/c we have so many great options - just like Ethiopian. And the crab thing has been beat to death (pardon the pun).

                1. re: Dennis S

                  Where is the pun?

                  Maybe you haven't lived in the area long enough Dennis - to realize this but DC had one of the very first if not the first large Vietnamese populations in the US. So while pho and Bahn Mi obviously are not regional dished - the have been a meaningful part of our region since the early 80's. DCs ethiopian scene has bee around perhaps a little longer. (unfortunately in my humble opinion it seems to have been on the wane for some time now though.). Because those communities have become such a part of the region I believe that if you are going to move away from a true regional specialty - they at least deserve to be first in line . . . Places or dishes from our friends in the Korean community are also very important to consider.

                  1. re: drewpbalzac

                    Pun - beating crabs. Yes, you don't beat them to death, but you beat them (hard shells anyway). And yes, I'm familiar with the VN community, that it first set up in Clarendon and moved West when rents rose. Still, I wouldn't put pho or bahn mi as a regional dish. The rest of your list - pit beef, half smokes, blue crab, scrapple, lake trout. Those are regional!

                    1. re: Dennis S

                      you shouldn't beat your crabs unless the itching is unbearable.

                      The hammer mushes the meat. Try to lear how to use a crab knife. . . . place it against the claw - give it a lite tap with the mallet just hard enough to drive it into the shell a bit and twist/jimmy the knife a bit. The shell of the claw should break clean, leaving an easily extracted morsen of meat.

          2. Had Cumin Lamb at Peter Chang's China Cafe in Richmond a couple of weeks ago. That was a masterful dish! In fact, our entire experience there was excellent. Hot and Numbing Beef, shallot pancakes like lanterns, bamboo fish -- all were delicious and skillfully prepared.

            2 Replies
            1. re: irishgem79

              If only Peter Chang were located close enough to Hong Kong Palace to compare them side by side! We love the version at Hong Kong Palace. It is full of wide slices of cumin-scented, lamb, made tingly with Szechuan peppercorns, and meltingly sweet onion chunks. It is at the edge of heat tolerance for my 70-something parents and 12 year-old. However, the 12 year-old requires us to order it on every visit. What I like about this dish is the layers of flavor--cumin, hot, salty, and just a bit sweet all in one spot.

              1. re: PollyG

                Yes, the HKP version is the best I've had. I did want to note that HKP had a write up in the FFX Times the other day - front page mention. And cumin lamb was mentioned specifically.