Warming Lamb with Shan Yao Potatoes and Greens

According to Chinese medicine, lamb is the perfect meat to warm and tonify Kidney Qi and Yang during the cold winter months. Lamb is classified as warm, sweet, tonifies the Spleen and Kidney, tonifies Qi and warms the interior. It is also considered to warm the circulating Blood and the joints, thus preventing the entry of external cold. Peppers, especially very spicy Sichuan peppers strongly warm the interior and dispel cold. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms tonify Qi and Blood, are particularly good to nourish the Wei-protective Qi, and maitake specifically nourish the Lungs and prevent coughs. Onions, garlic, oregano and rosemary are all warm and pungent, and release exterior wind-cold and warm the digestion, and in western terms are antiseptic; anti-bacterial and anti-viral.

Shan Yao mashed potatoes are mild, neutral and bland, and combine to tonify Spleen and Stomach Qi, benefit digestion and improve the appetite.

Steamed greens round out this winter meal by balancing out the strong warming nature of the lamb stew. Greens tend to have a neutral to cool, sweet and sometimes pungent nature, they benefit digestion, and are well known to be nutritional powerhouses, containing a multitude of essential vitamins and minerals.<.p>

Modified from a recipe found in The Chinese Herbal Cookbook, by Penelope Ody. Serves 4


Lamb Stew Ingredients

For Lamb

  •  1 TBSP olive oil (optionally infused with a few drops of roasted sesame oil) or butter
  •  2-3 cloves finely minced garlic
  •  1 chopped onion
  •  Salt and pepper to taste
  •  ½ tsp to ½ cup peppers, seeded and thinly sliced* (see note below)
  •  1½ pounds lamb stew meat cut into small 1½ inch cubes
  •  ½ to 1 cup thinly sliced Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms (just shiitake is fine too)
  •  1 TBSP wheat (or non-gluten) flour
  •  ½ tsp dried crushed oregano (or 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano)
  •  ½ tsp dried crushed rosemary (or 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary)
  •  1 TBSP chopped fresh basil
  •  1 cup of chicken or beef stock
  •  2-4 TBSP rice wine (can substitute sherry or cognac)
  •  2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
  •  1 tsp honey or coconut palm sugar, or ¼ tsp stevia (optional)
  •  Parsley to garnish, if desired

*Note: depending on how much spice & warming desired, you can use some combination of sweet red bell or cherry pepper, moderately spicy peppers like jalapeno or anaheim, even a little bit of very spicy peppers such as the traditional Sichuan pepper or other hot chilis.

For Potatoes

  •  4-8 oz Shan Yao/Dioscorea opposita rhizome
  •  1 to 1½ pounds potatoes (russet or gold work well)
  •  Salt to taste
  •  1-2 tablespoons milk or sour cream (can substitute non-dairy)
  •  1 TBSP olive oil or butter
  •  Parsley to garnish, if desired

For Greens

  •  1 large or 2 small bunches kale, chard (roughly chopped) or bok choy (leave whole)
  •  1 tsp olive oil
  •  Tamari/soy sauce or salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Put the Shan Yao in a small bowl of water to soak for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Melt butter or warm olive oil in a large oven-safe dish over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic and onions for 5 minutes, or until translucent and slightly browned. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add fresh peppers and sauté another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add lamb and cook with onions and peppers until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Remove meat using tongs and set aside.
  4. Add mushrooms to the pot and sauté another 3-4 minutes until they are soft. Add the flour, oregano, rosemary and basil and stir well so that the onions and mushrooms are well coated.
  5. Add the stock, rice wine (or sherry or cognac), and soy sauce (or tamari) and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Return the lamb to the pot and add a bit of sweetener, if desired. Cover and cook in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the meat is tender.
  7. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. add the potatoes and boil for 5 minutes, then strain the water from the Shan Yao and add to potatoes, boiling another 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes break easily with a fork.
  8. Using a steamer, cook the greens for 3-5 minutes until they are soft, remove from heat and toss with olive oil & tamari/soy sauce, or salt and pepper.
  9. Mash the potato/Shan Yao mixture with milk/sour cream and butter (or substitutes) until smooth and fluffy. Salt to taste.
  10. Serve lamb, Shan Yao mashed potatoes and steamed greens together. Garnish lamb and potatoes with parsley if desired.


About the Author

Laura Stropes

Laura Stropes, L.Ac. is a licensed practitioner of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine with a great love of Chinese herbology. She has been in practice since 1998. She has a passion for helping people on their path to achieve balance and wellness. She is a Fellow of the Acupuncture & TCM Board of Reproductive Medicine (ABORM), and specializes in women's health, in helping women, men, and couples optimize fertility, and supporting healthy pregnancies. She also has a strong focus on treating problems that negatively impact everyday health and well-being (sleep, digestion, stress level, pain). Laura worked at Mayway from 1999-2019 as an herbal consultant and project manager. Laura’s projects included the initial Mayway website in 2004 and website redesign in 2012, the Herb ID Kit recreation in 2009, and she coauthored the book “A Practitioner’s Formula Guide: Plum Flower & Minshan Formulas” - Wrinkle, Stropes & Potts, published in 2008. She also worked on product research and development, writing articles, and consulting services for other acupuncturists, chiropractors, veterinarians and medical doctors in choosing suitable TCM herbal treatments for their patients. Laura can be reached at: laura@laurastropes.com.

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