Lamb dishes do not usually appear in the menus of Chinese restaurants, but they are showing up on Chinese New Year menus to ring in the Year of The Goat.
SundayLife! found that at least 10 restaurants are introducing lamb dishes in their a la carte and set menus, and in buffet spreads.
The meat is also presented in myriad ways, stewed, pan-seared, fried, made into siew mai and used as a topping in yusheng.
Some restaurants are pairing lamb with fish in dishes and yusheng, inspired by the combination of the Chinese characters for fish and lamb.
This forms the Chinese character "xian", which translates to freshness in Mandarin.
Jiang-Nan Chun in Four Seasons Singapore has named its baked lamb pastry "yang ti fen jin", which means an energetic progress, while Jin Shan Lou in Marina Bay Sands is calling its lamb stew "xi qi yang yang", which means being filled with joy.
A spokesman for Cassia restaurant in Capella Singapore says: "Introducing lamb in the menu reflects a Chinese saying, 'yang yang de yi', which means a life of joy and fulfilment."
It serves cumin lamb cubes with sauteed garoupa in its set menus and features wok-fried lamb in its yusheng.
Mr Robert Han, group general manager of The Quayside Group, which owns Peony Jade at Keppel Club in Bukit Chermin Road and Clarke Quay, says: "To the Chinese, lamb is a red meat that symbolises longevity and prosperity."
Most restaurants have ordered up to 100kg of mainly grass-fed lamb from Australia and New Zealand, in anticipation of demand. Mr Han says: "Peony Jade has already ordered 100kg of lamb belly and foresees that lamb stew will be sold out by the end of the festive season."
A spokesman for Si Chuan Dou Hua, which has branches in UOB Plaza and the two Parkroyal hotels in Beach Road and Kitchener Road, says that each outlet has received 10 orders of its roasted sliced lamb since the dish was introduced last Sunday.
According to the restaurants, cuts from lamb leg and belly are used as they are more tender and less gamey.
To tone down the meat's strong flavour, restaurants are roasting it or simmering it in herb-infused stews.
At Carousel in Royal Plaza on Scotts, the lamb shank slices for its yusheng is slow-braised for five hours in a herbal stock that contains Chinese angelica (dang gui), codonopsis root (dang shen) and red dates.
Master chef Huang Ching Biao of Jin Shan Lou in Marina Bay Sands says: "It is crucial to remove the strong smell of lamb during the preparation of the dish. We use ingredients such as cloves, star anise, bay leaves and cinnamon. Radish and carrots also absorb the gaminess of the lamb."
On making lamb siew mai, executive chef Jackson Goh at Parkroyal Beach Road mixed minced lamb with pork, and added cumin powder and Chinese celery to "enhance the meat's flavour".
Most diners are game to try lamb dishes for its novelty factor.
Associate manager Phoebe Fong, 30, says: "Having lamb dishes is refreshing as it breaks away from the norm of having pen cai. Besides, some lamb dishes are cooked Western style like roasting, which is a change from the usual braised or steamed dishes."
But secretary Nicole Poi, who is in her 30s, says: "I will not order lamb dishes just because it is the Year of the Goat. It depends on who I am dining with, as some people may be uncomfortable with the gamey taste of lamb."
What: This Mediterranean restaurant serves a traditional Moroccan lamb stew jazzed up with spices (including nutmeg, cardamom and cumin), preserved and caramelised orange and honey apricot.
Where: Millennia Walk, 01-46/47/55/56; Orchard Central B2-01/B2-30
When: From tomorrow to March 5, Millennia Walk, 11.30am to 11pm daily, Orchard Central, 11am to 11pm daily
Info: Call 6337-7507, 6238-9028 or go to www.medzs.com.sg
PARKROYAL ON BEACH ROAD
What: Plaza Brasserie's buffet line-up includes lamb siew mai and Hainanese lamb stew.
The siew mai has a mixture of minced pork and lamb, which is cooked with cumin and Chinese celery.
They also contain diced water chestnut and coriander. The stew is simmered with Chinese herbs including licorice root (gan cao) and Chinese Angelica root (dang gui), as well as fermented beancurd to mask the lamb's gaminess.
Where: 7500 Beach Road, Level 1
When: Till March 5, noon to 2.30pm, 6 to 10pm, daily
Price: Starts from $48 for lunch buffet and $68 for dinner buffet
Info: Call 6505-5710 or e-mail dining.prsin@park royalhotels.com
What: This Cantonese restaurant has new dishes such as baked flaky pastry, which is filled with lamb and onions, and sauteed lamb cubes with black pepper sauce.
Where: Four Seasons Singapore, Level 2
When: Till March 5, 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6 to 10.30pm daily
Price: $28 (sauteed lamb cubes), $3 a piece (baked lamb pastry)
Info: Call 6831-7220 or e-mail email@example.com.
No advanced orders required. Available for dine-in and takeaway.
What: Standing out from its seafood offerings is the pan-seared lamb rack, which has been marinated for an hour with garlic, spring onions, coriander, honey and Japanese shoyu.
It is roasted and lightly drizzled with truffle oil.
The lamb rack is served with thin strips of deep fried yam and toasted sesame seeds.
Where: Block 3A Clark Quay, alfresco dining area
When: Till March 5, 3pm to midnight, Sunday to Thursday; 3pm to 1am, Friday and Saturday
Price: $78.80 (serves up to six people)
Info: Call 6338-3195, 9105-5973 or go to www.quaysidedining.com. Order one day in advance. Available for dine-in only.
What: Capella Singapore's Chinese restaurant serves its signature yusheng platter (right) with wok-fried lamb, raw salmon and lobster slices. Cumininfused lamb cubes also appear in some of its set menus.
Where: Capella Singapore, 1 The Knolls, Sentosa
When: The Cassia yusheng platter and set menus are available till March 5 Price: $35++ a person (yusheng), set menu with lamb dishes starts from $119++ a person
Info: Call 6591-5045 or e-mail cassia. firstname.lastname@example.org. Dine-in only. No advanced orders required.
What: Create your lamb wrap with a flavourful deep-fried lamb shank (above), which has been seasoned with fermented beancurd, coriander, Chinese rock sugar, star anise and cinnamon. Other condiments include hoisin sauce, mint leaves and sliced spring onions and cucumber.
Where: Park Regis Singapore, 23 Merchant Road, Level 1
When: Tomorrow to March 5, 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6 to 10.30pm daily
Price: $48++ (serves up to four persons)
Info: Call 6818-8851 or go to www.royalpavilionguandi. com. Dine-in only. Order one day in advance.
JIN SHAN LOU
What: It takes about 90 minutes to simmer the Hunan-style lamb stew in a claypot with chillies, peppercorns, carrots and radish.
Injecting some oomph to the dish are rice wine and garlic shoots.
Where: Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Tower 2 hotel lobby, 01-05 When: Till March 5, 7am to 2.30am daily
Price: $32 (small), $48 (medium), $64 (large)
Info: Call 6688-7733 or go to www.jinshan.com.sg. Dine-in only.
What: Dig into the hearty, slow-fire stewed lamb (left) with bamboo shoots, whole garlic and beancurd skin. The lamb cutlets are wok-braised with star anise, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms and beancurd skin for 11/2 hours till the meat turns forktender.
Where: Keppel Club, Bukit Chermin Road, Level M and 02-02, Block 3A Clarke Quay
When: Till March 5, 11am to 2.30pm, 6 to 11pm on weekday; 10am to 3pm, 6 to 11pm on weekend Price: $78.88 (serves six to eight persons)
Info: Call 6276-9138, 6338-0305 or go to www.peonyjade. com.
Order one day in advance. Available for both dine-in and takeaway.
SI CHUAN DOU HUA
What: New Year dishes on the menu include roasted sliced lamb (left) and Golden Lamb Prosperity Yusheng. The roast lamb boasts an aromatic smokiness and is slathered in gravy made with peppermint sauce and butter, and served with celery and carrots.
The yusheng comes with minced lamb and crispy rice grains coated in shimmery gold flakes.
Where: Three outlets, including 60-01, UOB Plaza 1
When: Till March 5, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm dailly
Price: $68 (roasted lamb), Golden Lamb Prosperity Yusheng: $88 (serves four to six people), $148 (serves eight to 10 people)
Info: Call 6535-6006 or go to www.sichuandouhua.com.
Roasted lamb is available for dine-in only, yusheng is available for dine-in and takeaway.
No advanced orders required.
ROYAL PLAZA ON SCOTTS
What: The Eight Gems Yu Sheng pairs lamb and fish on the intricatelydesigned platter.
The lamb shank is slow-braised with Chinese herbs, deboned, compressed, chilled and thinly sliced. Next to it are sheets of swordfish and shredded greens. Also in the mix are Alaskan crab, abalone slices, lobsters, Hokkaido scallops, dried scallops and crispy silver fish.
Where: 25 Scotts Road, Gourmet Carousel, Level 1
When: From Friday to March 5, 10am to 10pm daily
Price: $188 (serves four to six persons), $228 (serves eight to 10 persons)
Info: Call 6589-7788 or go to www.carouselbuffet. com.sg. Order three days in advance.
Available for dine-in and takeaway.
This article was first published on February 8, 2015.
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