Uighur Autumn Pulao (Rice with Lamb Ribs)

This recipe is from Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, 1998). When it appeared in the Wine Enthusiast, the recipe’s derivation was explained: “This is a Chinese variation of an Indian dish—pulao—that is normally made with basmati rice. Uighur is a region in China that has one of the highest longevity rates in the world—by some estimates 25 percent of the population lives to be over 100, so pay attention. If you can’t find lamb back ribs, use boneless should chunks or shoulder chops.”


The relative richness of this dish calls for a red wine with crisp acidity such an Italian Barbera; recommended producers include Vietti and Michele Chiarlo.

  • 3 cups short-grain red rice, such as Bhutanese red rice, rinsed, or medium- or short-grain rice
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup rendered lamb fat (see below)
  • 1 1/2 pounds lamb back ribs, rinsed, trimmed of fat, and cut into 3-inch chunks (left on the bone)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 large carrots, bias cut into 1/4-inch slices, then into matchsticks
  • 1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 large quince, cored and cut into 6 or 8 wedges, or 2 Granny Smith apples, cored and quartered
  • 1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and membranes discarded, cut into 8 chunks

Place the rice in a medium bowl and cover with warm water. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the salt and let soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large, heavy wok or heavy pot, heat the oil and fat to almost smoking, then add 1 teaspoon of salt. Place the lamb in the wok and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the onion slices and cook for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and tomato and stir well. If they start to stick, lower the heat slightly and turn them with a spatula. Cook for about 8 minutes, then add the sugar. Cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the carrots are very limp and starting to turn golden brown. Skim off any excess fat floating in the pan.

Add 3 ½ cups water and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Boil over medium heat for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove the meat and set aside.

Drain the rice and place in the pot. The water should just cover the rice; if necessary, add a little more water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Place the quince (or apple) and red pepper evenly over the top of the rice, then top with the chunks of meat. Cover tightly with foil, reduce the heat to low, and let steam for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest for about 10 minutes.

To serve, remove the meat, pepper, and quince or apple and set aside. Mound the rice on a platter, then top again with the meat, pepper, and quince or apple. Traditionally, at the table, the host removes the chunks of meat, slices them, then returns them to the platter.

To render lamb fat: Cut about ½ pound lamb fat into small chunks. Place in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir to prevent burning as the fat begins to melt. After about 20 minutes, all the fat will have melted, leaving only small crisp cracklings. Strain through a paper towel-lined sieve. Yield: about ½ cup liquid fat.

Published on December 17, 2009