Water Basin Mutton (Shuipen Yangrou)

water basin mutton

Water Basin Mutton, also known as “Shuipen Yangrou (水盆羊肉),” is a traditional and renowned dish in Shaanxi province. This dish originates from Chaoyi Town in Dali County, Weinan City, Shaanxi province. The water basin mutton from Dali, Pucheng, and Chengcheng counties in Weinan City is particularly famous, with Chengcheng’s version being the most authentic and having a long history. In January 2016, it was listed as the fifth batch of intangible cultural heritage in Shaanxi province. This dish primarily features lamb belly as the main ingredient.

Lamb meat is traditionally considered a warming food suitable for the autumn and winter seasons. However, the skilled chefs in Shaanxi, who are experts in preparing beef and lamb, created water basin mutton to meet people’s summer demands. It is typically available for consumption around June in the lunar calendar, earning it the nickname “June Fresh.”

During the late Ming Dynasty, when Li Zicheng, the leader of a peasant uprising, was preparing to leave Shaanxi to march on Beijing, the local people in Guanzhong offered water basin mutton to boost the morale of the rebel army. The soldiers were inspired and managed to capture Beijing, toppling the corrupt Ming Dynasty.

When enjoying water basin mutton, the most authentic way is to serve it with two special crescent-shaped “Moon Buns” from Dali. One bun is used to make a sandwich with the mutton, while the other is soaked in the soup. It’s typically garnished with fresh garlic or sweet garlic, and the seasoned chili oil is drizzled with lamb fat for a rich and unique flavor.


  • Ingredients:
    • 750 grams of lamb belly.
    • Cilantro for garnish.
  • Seasonings:
    • Salt, chicken bouillon, cooking wine, scallions, ginger, ground black pepper, cooking oil.
  • Instructions:
    • Wash the lamb belly and cut it into thick strips.
    • Heat a wok with cooking oil, and after the oil is hot, add ginger slices and sauté until fragrant. Pour in hot water, and season with salt, chicken bouillon, cooking wine, and ground black pepper. When the water comes to a boil, add the lamb meat and cook until done. Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro leaves, then serve.

Water Basin Mutton is a flavorful and culturally significant dish that represents the culinary traditions of Shaanxi province. Its unique flavors and historical significance make it a must-try for anyone exploring the rich tapestry of Chinese cuisine.

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