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Awassi Sheep


maher
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As a longtime eater of lamb, sheep, kid, goat mutton and hogget, even sheeps milk, cheese and yoghurt i've often puzzled over why lamb wasnt more popular in most of europe and the US.

having done exhaustive research my theory is: Awassi sheep, or to be specific awassi sheep fat, just tastes a lot better than most western cultivated varieties.

Awassi sheep is the breed with floppy ears and a sac of fat hanging over the tail which is most popular in the middle east. while its meat is quite similar in flavor to western varieties of lamb/sheep albeit with a more delicate flavor with a longer finish, the fat is succulent delicious in my opinion and quite dramatically unlike that of other lamb.

ive found that most western visitors who taste it are surprised by the flavor and resolve to eat more lamb on their return from the middle east.

does anyone have similar experience with this type of lamb? or am i just partial to what i grew up with? is this an opportunity for someone to rear yet another 'name' breed like kurabota pork?

this article on the FAO website seems to support what im saying, and gives a good intro to the awassi lamb breeds characteristics.

http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/p8550e/P8550E01.htm

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Lamb has always been popular in the UK. The best i've ever had is North Ronaldsay lamb from the Orkney isles. This rare-breed feeds exclusively on seaweed, which gives the meat an incredible flavour. It has an uber-sheep taste that would put most non-lamb eaters off. It's a real tonic to most lamb that you get in this country which has a very mild delicate flavour. If you ever the chance to eat it then take it. But i suspect it's very different to Awassi meat which sounds very subtle.

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Lamb has always been popular in the UK. The best i've ever had is North Ronaldsay lamb from the Orkney isles.  This rare-breed feeds exclusively on seaweed, which gives the meat an incredible flavour.  It has an uber-sheep taste that would put most non-lamb eaters off.  It's a real tonic to most lamb that you get in this country which has a very mild delicate flavour.  If you ever the chance to eat it then take it.  But i suspect it's very different to Awassi meat which sounds very subtle.

ive had some varieties of salt marsh lamb. (is that an accurate designation or more a marketing term). ive loved the meat, which is not dissimilar from other varieties, just suffused with a more intense flavor, sort of a prebrined lamb if that makes sense. i will keep an eye out for the orkney isle lamb if it ever crosses my path.

what im more interested in is the taste of the fat, because i believe that is where most people have trouble with lamb. its been my experience that thats where Awassi brings something different to the table. of course this may also be that i was brought up tasting this meat (and fat) and therefore its ingrained into my psyche which is why i wanted independent input from eGers.

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Awassi belongs to the large group of fat-tailed breeds centered around a particular center of origin quite likely in Iran, radiating out. Karakul is another well-known breed, as are the "dumbas" further east. Both the milk & fat are very delicious.

As KA mentions, diet adds another important component. Israel Awassi, especially the NEGEV Awassi browse a lot, including on a number of introduced Australian acacia and other shrub. I do not know the mix of forages for Israel Awassi, but the National Academy of Sciences publication here will give you an idea: there are photos of Awassi : http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPC/doc/Publica...j.htm#TopOfPage

Note the difference between GRAZING sheep like Southdown etc. in temperate, well-watered regions and Browsing sheep: most of the Near-east and the Subcontinent will see sheep with a larger part of their diet from woody perennials and transient forbs as opposed to grass.

Browse contains high proportions of phenylpropanoid metabolites. For example, Cordeauxia edulis, a Somali browse legume, stains the bones of ruminants a bright orange [see above publication]. The unique quality and flavor of the sheep of the Deccan plateau in India depends directly on the types and quality of their browse. BTW, goats too are very selective browsers, taking plant tips, which naturally have the highest nutritional content. The canard: goats will eat anything, is founded upon ignorance.

The transient forbs are often seasonal, or at least their palatable parts are. They may be very aromatic e.g. fennel, thyme, many others. These too lend a very special quality to the meat/fat not found in grazed/corn fed animals.

So not just Awassi, the whole group of fat-tailed sheep is treasured for the taste of their fat. Many cultures relish the taste of fat. The fat has many liquid crystal & membrne properties dependng on where it comes from:tail, shoulder, neck, breast etc. Each is used to a particular effect, and to a particular degree of cooking to effect a particular transition phase in the liquid crystal and change in the mouth feel: from pronounced "crunchiness" to softness. Fat is interspersed with muscle for kebabs etc. The science of meat cutting is highly developed in these countries and entirely different than that found in Western butchering techniques.

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