The Nasty Bits: Lamb Kidneys Recipe (2024)

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Chichi Wang

The Nasty Bits: Lamb Kidneys Recipe (1)

Chichi Wang

Chichi Wang wrote a variety of columns for Serious Eats including The Butcher's Cuts, in addition to other stories. Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi took her degree in philosophy but decided that writing about food would be more fun than writing about Plato.

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Updated March 26, 2019

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The Nasty Bits: Lamb Kidneys Recipe (2)

"These deep-fried, huo bao slices of kidney may just be my favorite kidney preparation."

Pictured here are lamb kidneys. By far the smallest kidneys I've had the pleasure of cooking, these organs pack a lot of aroma into one small package.

Having touted the mildness of pork and veal kidneys, my nose did a double-take at the extreme lambiness of lamb kidneys. The kidneys themselves were pungent, not with the scent of urine, but with the arresting smells of lamb approximating that which one would confront in a barn. Moreover, the fat in which the kidneys were buried smelled of grass with a certain funk at the end.

I had originally planned to grill the kidneys but after one whiff of the organ, I knew that I needed a powerful technique to counter their assertive smell. Plenty of tongue-numbing chiles and pepper, I thought, along with alcohol, would do the trick.

In her authoritative cookbook Land of Plenty, Fuchsia Dunlop provides a recipe for pork kidneys prepared in just such a manner, paired with chile peppers and a marinade of soy sauce and rice wine. The kidneys are quickly passed through the oil before being added to a stir-fry with vegetables. A cornstarch slurry finishes the dish, uniting the spicy elements of the dish.

Dunlop's recipe features the classic Chinese "huo bao" technique, which translates into something like "fire-bursted" or "fire-exploded." The terms refers more to the shape of the protein than the method itself.

The slices of meat or seafood, when scored in a crosshatch pattern, will seize up and curl into cylindrical forms. (The same huo-bao technique can be applied to squid. In Cantonese cookery, the lightly scored and battered squares of squid are deep-fried in a dish commonly called "salty baked squid," or "salt and pepper baked squid." In stir-fried dishes, the squid is quickly parboiled before being added to the wok.)

While scoring and deep-frying the kidneys seemed like an ideal preparation, I wanted to retain the crispy surface after frying. In place of the cornstarch slurry, I added a bit of turmeric and curry powder to the marinade and held the kidneys in the frying oil for half a minute longer.

Hot out of the oil, the surface of the kidneys was crisp but the interior remained perfectly tender. Prepared in this manner, the curried fritters of offal were so tasty, few actually made it to the table.

These deep-fried, huo bao slices of kidney may just be my favorite kidney preparation, which, considering my fondness for steak and kidney pie, is saying a lot.

The Nasty Bits: Lamb Kidneys Recipe (3)

Recipe Details

The Nasty Bits: Lamb Kidneys Recipe

Prep10 mins

Cook10 mins

Total20 mins

Serves2 servings


  • 1/2 pound lamb kidneys, about two or three

  • 1 tablespoon rice wine

  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon chile pepperor chile pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/2 cup oil, forpassing through


  1. Remove the kidneys from the fat. Using a paring knife, cut away the rest of the fat and gristle in the middle of the kidneys, taking care to keep the organs as whole as possible. Slice off thin, 1/4 inch-thick slices of the kidneys that are approximately 3/4 to 1 inch in length.

  2. With your knife slanted at a 45° angle, lightly score the surface of the kidneys in one direction, then in the other direction perpendicular to the first cuts. You should have a crosshatch pattern when finished.

  3. Mix the slices of kidney with the rest of the ingredients for the marinade.

  4. In a wok, heat the oil to 350°F (180°C) for deep frying. Add a few slices of kidney at a time so as not to cool down the oil. Deep-fry for 40 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on the size of your slices. Serve immediately while the slices are hot and crispy.

  • Lamb
  • Dairy-free Mains
  • Stir-Fry
  • Lamb Mains
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
24g Fat
3g Carbs
20g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 24g31%
Saturated Fat 2g12%
Cholesterol 480mg160%
Sodium 129mg6%
Total Carbohydrate 3g1%
Dietary Fiber 0g2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 20g
Vitamin C 11mg53%
Calcium 20mg2%
Iron 11mg61%
Potassium 176mg4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The Nasty Bits: Lamb Kidneys Recipe (2024)


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