Oanh dreamt up this dish while we were brainstorming what to cook for her parents over Thanksgiving. We love lamb but it is a rarity in Vietnamese cooking and therefore always a novelty that we want to introduce to our parents. We’ve previously tried to pair lamb with tamarind, which were intriguing but could be improved. Pairing lamb with pomegranate produced a better blending of flavors while accentuating the flavor of the meat. We know the pairing worked because the chops were served to lamb skeptics and the plates were eaten clean even of the pomegranate reduction that was rich in lamb flavor.
We compared our experimental pomegranate marinade with a standard bbq marinade and definitely liked the pomegranate one better.
We started with fresh pomegranate juice for our marinade. To a cup of pomegranate juice (about a fruit’s worth) we added a tablespoon of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, two teaspoons of olive oil, two teaspoons of salt / kumquat salt, and two teaspoons of fig jam, and slices of scallion bulb (white part). Everything was mixed together then poured over the 4 lamb chops and kept in the fridge for 24 hours.
After marination in pomegranate juice (or pomegranation, if you will) the lamb chops took on the beautiful maroon color of the fruit juice.
We cooked the lamb chops on a lightly oiled pan on high heat, about 5 minutes per side. Afterwards, the remaining marinade was poured in to deglaze the pan. The marinade was simmered on low heat until reduced to 1/3 of its original volume. The reduction was sweet, tangy, and full of lamb flavors.
Tender lamb chops, with pomegranate reduction drizzled on, and with fresh mint leaves was the star of a weekend full of food. We were glad our idea worked out so well that we continued to dispel the prejudice against lamb that our parents have. It was also just cool to see them thoroughly enjoy the de novo creation we dreamed up on the plane ride to Houston.
We have since found a couple of Middle Eastern recipes that pair lamb with pomegranate molasses. We are curious about these dishes, especially to see how the array of spices work together with lamb and pomegranate.
Our dish showed that the two main ingredients were already a harmonious match all by themselves. The natural tanginess of the pomegranate juice counterbalanced the richness of the lamb and made the dish unexpectedly light. Given the abundance of pomegranate at the markets at this time of the year, we can’t wait to experiment more.