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.



For the Lamb Marinade:

For the Sauce:

For the Taiwanese Lamb and Water Spinach Stir-fry:



  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.


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.

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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.