That Spicy Chick

Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry

This Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry is quick and easy to make, and full of addictive salty, sweet, and spicy flavors. Thinly sliced lamb is first marinated and cooked, then stir-fried with garlic, chilies, and water spinach in a tasty stir-fry sauce that stars Sa Cha sauce (Chinese BBQ sauce).

Top view of a serving bowl with lamb, veggies, garlic, and chilies stir-fry dish.

You guys, I have BIG feelings for this Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry. It is utterly BOOMING with umami, and full of big and bold tantalizing flavors! ❤️

We’ve got:

  • Tender and flavorful lamb slices.
  • Spicy chilies and roast-y garlic.
  • Savory sweetness in a seafood-y flavored sauce.
  • And lovely, mild and subtly sweet water spinach! 💛 💛

This recipe has been on my “recipe ideas/to make” list ever since 2018. I was in Taipei for a couple of months back then, and my go-to favorite dish was a shredded pork version of this stir-fry from a Beer House. And by gosh, I’m so happy that I recreated it (a superb version of it if I might say so) finally and can stop dreaming about trips to Taipei to eat this dish again!

Close up front view of stir-fry lamb, water spinach, garlic, and chilies in a serving bowl.

Why This Recipe Works

  • It’s quick and easy to make, and ready to go in 30 minutes.
  • Everything gets cooked in one wok, so there’s less clean up.
  • Sa Cha Sauce (Chinese BBQ sauce) is the star ingredient, and it adds plenty savory umami notes and character to this stir-fry dish.
  • The mild and slightly sweet flavor of water spinach balances out the saltiness from the sauce and spiciness from the chilies.
  • It’s customizable with other thinly sliced hotpot meats – pork belly and beef shoulder would taste great!
  • You’ve got your protein and veggies all in one dish, so all you need is some steamed rice and you’ll have yourself a full meal!

Ingredients

Labeled fresh ingredients for Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry on wooden board.
Fresh and pantry ingredients for Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry
  • Marinated Lamb: I used thinly sliced shabu shabu (hotpot) lamb shoulder meat. I cut it up into bite-sized strips and marinated it with low sodium light soy sauce, sesame oil, a bit of ground white pepper, and corn starch. Look for packages of sukiyaki or shabu shabu thinly sliced lamb meat at your local Asian supermarket in the hotpot meats section.
  • Chilies: I use Bird’s eye red chilies (any hot red chili will work) and Thai ‘prik kee nu’ chilies for heat. I also use large red chilies – which are mild and taste similar to red bell pepper – for color. Feel free to adjust the number of chilies you use based on your heat level preference. Thai prik kee nu chilies are very HOT!! Omit them altogether if you are not big on heat.
  • Water Spinach (空心菜 – kōngxīncài): Also known as morning glory, kang kong, swamp spinach, and ong choy. This delicious vegetable has a very mild and slightly sweet flavor. It’s a key ingredient in this dish. Look for it at your Asian grocery store if you’re based outside of Asia. If you’re in Asia, you can usually find it in wet markets everywhere and supermarkets.
Labeled sauce ingredients for Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry on white background.
Sauce ingredients for Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry
  • Sa Cha/Sha Cha Sauce (沙茶酱 – shā chá jiàng): This is a Chinese BBQ sauce, but it tastes nothing like any BBQ sauce you’ve tried before. It’s made with flathead fish (usually brill), shrimp, and other spices, and has a slightly sandy texture and salty seafood flavor. It comes in small glass jars or tins and with plenty of oil on top of the actual sauce. I use Lee Kum Kee’s Sa Cha Sauce. But Bull Head brand Sha Cha sauce is very popular and more traditionally used in Taiwan. Look for it at your local Asian grocery store or purchase it online. When adding it to the measuring cup along with the rest of the sauce ingredients, try to avoid the oil at the top and scoop out the paste/sauce part only.
  • Shao Xing Rice Wine: This is a fragrant Chinese cooking wine that you can find in Asian supermarkets. Use dry sherry if unavailable.
  • Chinkiang Vinegar: This is a Chinese black vinegar. It should be available at Asian or Chinese supermarkets. It you can’t find it, substitute with half balsamic vinegar and half white vinegar.
  • Dark Soy Sauce: Not to be confused with sweet dark soy sauce. This is the Chinese dark soy sauce, which is used for color. If unavailable, just use additional low sodium light soy sauce in its place.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

Lamb, veggies, garlic, and chilies stir-fry dish in a bowl and two bowls of rice behind.

How to Make Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry

Prep:

  1. Marinate the lamb: Thinly slice the lamb into bite-sized strips, then add to a bowl along with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Mix until combined well and set aside.
  2. Make the sauce: Whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup or bowl until combined well.
  3. Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop the garlic, and all of the chilies. Separate the stems and leaves of the water spinach and the stems into 3-4cm pieces. Rinse and drain both the stems and leaves separately and set aside.
Lamb shabu shabu meat on cutting board.
Lamb Shoulder Shabu Shabu Meat

For the Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry:

  1. Cook the lamb: Stir-fry in a bit of oil over medium-high heat. Once no longer pink, switch off the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer to a clean bowl.
  2. Stir-fry aromatics: Add a bit of oil to wok and heat over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the garlic and all of the chilies for about a minute, or until fragrant.
  3. Add water spinach stems: Stir-fry for another minute until they start to soften.
  4. Add the lamb, water spinach leaves, water, and kosher salt: Cover the wok for about a minute to help soften the leaves. Then uncover and toss everything to combine.
  5. Pour in the sauce: Stir-fry until everything is evenly coated with the sauce and it has thickened slightly, then switch off the heat.
  6. Serve: Transfer to a serving bowl/dish and drizzle sesame oil on top. Serve immediately with warm steamed rice!
Process steps to make Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Don’t use an excessively fatty meat. Try to purchase leaner lamb shabu shabu meat as otherwise the dish will be very oily. If you can’t purchase leaner meat and your lamb renders too much fat after cooking, scoop out some of it before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
Front view of serving bowl with stir-fry lamb, water spinach, garlic, and chilies.

FAQs

Can I use a different protein?

I’ve made this with thinly sliced skinless pork belly and it tastes fantastic. Thinly sliced beef shabu shabu meat would also work well. Look for packages of sukiyaki or shabu shabu (hot pot style) thinly sliced meat at your local Asian supermarket.

What if I can’t find shabu shabu (hot pot) or sukiyaki style meat?

Use a cut of lamb meat such as the shoulder, and slice it as thin as you can. Freeze the meat for 20-30 minutes before slicing so that it will be easier to slice thinly.

Can I use another green instead of water spinach?

You can try substituting it with choy sum, sweet potato leaves (地瓜葉) or another Asian green with a mild sweet flavor. The flavor of the dish will be slightly different if using another green, but it will still taste delicious. Regular spinach is not a great option, as it has a stronger and slightly bitter flavor.

Can I make this gluten-free?

I recommend using a gluten-free soy sauce, half balsamic vinegar and half rice vinegar instead of Chinkiang vinegar, and dry sherry instead of Shao Xing Rice Wine. Sa cha sauce is gluten-free, and you will likely get a similar flavor in the dish with the GF ingredient substitutes. Do note that I have not tried making this recipe with gluten-free ingredient substitutes. If you do try making it GF, let us know in the comments how it worked out for you!

Close-up front and top view of lamb and veggies stir-fry dish in a bowl. Text overlay "Taiwanese Lamb & Water Spinach Stir-fry".

More Easy Asian Stir-fries


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Top view of a serving bowl with lamb, veggies, garlic, and chilies stir-fry dish.

Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry

A quick and easy 30 minute stir-fry that’s full of addictive salty, sweet, and spicy flavors. Thinly sliced lamb gets stir-fried with garlic, chilies, and water spinach in a tasty stir-fry sauce that stars Sa Cha sauce.

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Chinese
Scale

Ingredients

For the Lamb Marinade:

  • 365380 grams (12.813.4 ounces) Lamb Shoulder Shabu Shabu Meat – cut into bite-sized strips
  • 1 TSP Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 TSP Sesame Oil
  • ½ TSP ground White Pepper
  • 1.5 TSP Corn Starch

For the Sauce:

  • 3 TBLS Sa Cha Sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee’s Sa Cha sauce. Avoid the oil and use the thick sauce part.)
  • 3 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • ¼ cup Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • 2 TSP Chinkiang Vinegar (use 1 TSP balsamic vinegar + 1 TSP white vinegar if unavailable)
  • ¾ TSP Dark Soy Sauce (substitute with low sodium light soy sauce if unavailable)
  • 1.5 TSP Corn Starch
  • 11.5 TSP White Sugar, to taste
  • 2 TSP Chili Oil (optional)

For the Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry:

  • 2 TBLS Canola Oil (or any other neutral flavored cooking oil with a high smoke point)
  • 12 Garlic cloves – smashed, then roughly chopped
  • 620 Red Chilies (Bird’s Eye preferred, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – chopped
  • 26 Prik Kee Nu Green Chilies (optional), to taste – chopped
  • 2 Large Red Chilies – deseeded if desired, thinly sliced at an angle
  • 300 grams Water Spinach – stems and leaves separated, stems cut into 34cm pieces
  • ½ TSP Kosher Salt (use less if using table salt)
  • ½ cup Water
  • 1 TSP Sesame Oil, for drizzling on top

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Marinate the lamb: Thinly slice the lamb into bite-sized strips. Add them to a medium sized mixing bowl, followed by the low sodium light soy sauce, sesame oil, ground white pepper, and corn starch. Mix with a spoon until combined well, then set aside.
  2. Make the sauce: Whisk together the Sa Cha sauce, low sodium light soy sauce, shao xing rice wine, chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, corn starch, sugar, and chili oil (if using) in a measuring cup or bowl until combined well.
  3. Prepare the fresh ingredients: Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your knife, then roughly chop. Chop the Bird’s Eye red chilies and prik kee nu green chilies (if using). Thinly slice the large red chilies at an angle and deseed them if desired. Separate the stems and leaves of the water spinach. Cut the stems into 3-4cm pieces. Rinse and drain both the stems and leaves separately and set aside.

For the Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry:

  1. Cook the lamb: Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the lamb and spread out the pieces in the wok. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, until no longer pink (it’s okay if it’s not fully cooked through yet). Switch off the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer to a clean bowl. If your lamb was very fatty, discard all but 1.5 TBLS rendered fat from the wok. If not, add more oil to the wok.
  2. Stir-fry aromatics: Heat the rendered fat and oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and all of the chilies, and stir-fry for 40-60 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Add water spinach stems: Add the water spinach stems and stir-fry for about a minute, or until they start to soften.
  4. Add the lamb and water spinach leaves: Add the lamb, water spinach leaves, water and kosher salt. Cover the wok for about a minute to help soften the leaves. Then uncover and toss everything to combine.
  5. Pour in the sauce: Give the sauce a quick stir with a spoon, then pour it into the wok. Stir-fry for about a minute, until everything is evenly coated with the sauce and it slightly thickens. Switch off the heat.
  6. To Serve: Transfer to a serving bowl/dish and drizzle sesame oil on top. Serve immediately with warm steamed rice.

Notes

Ingredient Notes, Cook’s Tips, and FAQs

  1. Sa Cha/Sha Cha Sauce (沙茶酱 – shā chá jiàng): This Chinese BBQ sauce comes in small glass jars or tins and with plenty of oil on top of the actual sauce. You can try finding it at your local Asian grocery store or purchase it online. I use Lee Kum Kee’s Sa Cha Sauce, but Bull Head brand Sha Cha sauce is great, and more traditionally used in Taiwan. If using the latter, add two tablespoons to the measuring cup along with the rest of the sauce ingredients first. Taste and decide if a third tablespoon is needed.
  2. Chilies: Feel free to adjust the number of chilies you use based on your heat level preference. Thai prik kee nu chilies are very HOT!! Omit them altogether if you are not big on heat. The large red chilies are mild and similar to bell pepper in flavor, so feel free to use only them (or red bell pepper) if you prefer a milder dish.
  3. Water Spinach (空心菜 – kōngxīncài): This vegetable is also known as morning glory, kang kong, swamp spinach, and ong choy. Look for it at your Asian grocery store if you’re based outside of Asia, and in  wet markets and supermarkets if you’re based in Asia. If you cannot locate it, substitute with choy sum, sweet potato leaves (地瓜葉), or another Asian green with a mild sweet flavor or another Asian green. The flavor of the dish will be slightly different if using another green, but it will still be tasty!
  4. Don’t use an excessively fatty meat. Try to purchase leaner lamb shabu shabu meat. If your lamb renders too much fat after cooking, scoop out some of it before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
  5. Can I use a different protein? Thinly sliced skinless pork belly and thinly sliced beef shabu shabu meat work well. Look for packages of sukiyaki or shabu shabu (hot pot style) thinly sliced meat at your local Asian supermarket.
  6. What if I can’t find shabu shabu (hot pot) or sukiyaki style meat? Use a cut of lamb meat such as the shoulder, and slice it as thin as you can. Freeze the meat for 20-30 minutes before slicing so that it will be easier to slice thinly.
  7. Can I make this gluten-free? I recommend using a gluten-free soy sauce, half balsamic vinegar and half rice vinegar instead of Chinkiang vinegar, and dry sherry instead of Shao Xing Rice Wine. Sa cha sauce is gluten-free. You will likely get a similar flavor in the dish with the GF ingredient substitutes.
  8. Recipe inspired by the dish from Beer House in Taipei and Polyphagic Abby.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 430
  • Sugar: 11.7g
  • Sodium: 1248.8mg
  • Fat: 25.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 5g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11.6g
  • Trans Fat: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 28.1g
  • Fiber: 4.5g
  • Protein: 27.3g
  • Cholesterol: 68.5mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

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