Jingisukan or “Ghengis Khan” is a Japanese grilled lamb dish that takes its name from the 13th-century ruler Genghis Khan who founded the Mongol Empire.

Jingisukan has a very storng earthy taste and the meat is very tender

Up until the late 19th century, mutton and lamb were not part of the Japanese diet and could rarely be found in Japan. The large majority of protein in the Japanese diet was from chicken, pork, beef, or seafood which is still very much the case so today.


At the turn of the century, however, the government began pushing the wool industry in Japan, bringing in sheep in large numbers and encouraging the consumption of mutton. Slogans floated around urging Japanese people to eat mutton, claiming that it would make them big and strong, just like the Mongolian leader Ghengis Khan.


Somewhere along the way, the name got attached to a certain dish, and in the 1930s, “Jingisukan” was born.

The white block in the center is the mutton fat whis is melted and helps prevent the meat from sticking to the pan

Jingisukan is grilled on a specific cast iron pan that looks a bit like a traditional Mongolian war helmet with a raised center and a brim around the outside. These pans were originally produced in Do-machi, Yamagata, and can now be found all over Japan.


After firing up the grill, mutton fat is melted all over the pan so that the ingredients don’t stick, and then the remaining fat is placed on the center point of the pan so that it continues to melt down.


Vegetables are arranged on the outside of the skillet so that when you put the meat on the center of the pan, the meat juices will dribble down, adding rich flavor to the vegetables. Usually, cabbage, onion, pumpkin, mushrooms, carrots, and eggplant are popular. However, each restaurant uses its own assortment of vegetables, depending on the region and season.


After the meat and veggies are grilled to perfection, it is dipped in a special jingisukan sauce and eaten over white rice.

Jingisukan is served all over Japan and is a favorite food if skiers or those in cold climates

Despite many people believing that jingisukan is originally from Hokkaido, where it is also famed, the original jingisukan is actually from Yamagata, hailing from the Zao region. 


Today, you can still visit the original and very first jingisukan shop in Kaminoyama, a quaint little restaurant named “Jinguisukan Shiro.” It is very popular among locals, so you might need to make a reservation over the phone.


You can also enjoy Jingisukan around Yamagata City near Yamagata Station at Hitsujien and at Yamagata’s premier street food district, Hotonaru Yokocho.

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