Barbecued Butterflied Sichuan Lamb Leg

A butterflied leg of lamb is basically a deboned and flattened cut, so that you can achieve a uniform thickness on your barbecue. Lamb features prominently in Chinese cuisine, from Northwestern Xinjiang Lamb to this Sichuan style barbecued lamb. What gives it its characteristic flavour is the mix of freshly ground spices otherwise known as Chinese five spice mix and the liberal use of tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorns. 


Prep time 30 minutes (plus marinating)
Cook 35 minutes (plus resting)


  • 1 butterflied lamb leg, about 1.6 kg (3 lb 8 oz), fat trimmed and reserved
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) vegetable oil or other neutral-flavoured oil
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 12 spring onions (scallions), trimmed

Smacked cucumber:

  • 1 telegraph (long) cucumber, washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 pinch of caster (superfine) sugar (optional)

Serving suggestion: serve with steamed jasmine rice

NOTES: Sichuan peppercorns are dried seed pods from the prickly ash tree. They are available from Asian grocers and spice specialists.

Butterflied lamb leg is a crowd-pleaser as it has some parts will be more cooked than others. 

1. Coarsely grind the spices using a mortar and pestle and add the sea salt. Set aside half of the spice mixture.

2. Put the remaining spice mixture in a large bowl with the oil, soy sauce and vinegar and mix to combine. Add the butterflied lamb, massage well to coat thoroughly, cover and set aside to marinate and come to room temperature (alternatively you can marinate in the refrigerator overnight and bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking).

3. Preheat a barbecue or large chargrill pan to medium– high. Remove the lamb from the marinade and barbecue, fat-side down, until the fat is rendered and crisp, then turning occasionally, for 20–30 minutes for medium-rare in the thickest part or until cooked to your liking; internal temperature should read 52°C (125°F) on a thermometer and the meat will continue to cook while resting. It will reach an internal temperature of 55°C (130°F). If you have a hooded barbecue, you can close the hood in between turning the lamb; the lamb will take less time to cook in this case, about 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a tray, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

4. While the lamb rests, drizzle the spring onions with a little oil and barbecue for 3–4 minutes until lightly charred.

5. To make the smacked cucumber, lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack with the flat side of a cleaver or with the flat of a large knife along the length until it splits. Coarsely chop and transfer to a bowl along with the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

6. Serve the lamb sliced with any resting juices, with the smacked cucumber, chargrilled spring onion and the reserved spice mixture to season.