I’ve mentioned before that in the pre-pandemic times (you may or may not remember them) I had been hosting bi-monthly dinners for eight in our town that I call India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal. I was getting ready for the 15th iteration when the first lockdown hit. These were 5-7 course meals, a mix of dishes traditional and less traditional. The fourth of these dinners featured an improvized beef curry that I called Indo-nesian beef curry. I’d started out making a slow-braised curry with South Indian accents and then decided to hit it with some Southeast Asian touches. The results were excellent—an intersection between Indonesian rendang and beef curry from some place between Kerala and Chettinad. There was only one problem—the dish had been improvized from beginning to end and in the rush of dinner prep I hadn’t taken any notes whatsoever. I’ve long planned to try and recreate it but until a few weeks ago I never got around to it. Well, it’s hard to say for sure after almost three years but I think this comes pretty close. It’s very tasty at any rate. I’ve made it with beef on both occasions but it would probably be just as good with goat or lamb and probably also very easily adapted with chicken. Give it a go and see what you think.
- 2 lbs or so of cubed chuck roast
- 1 cup thickly sliced red onion
- 1.5 tspns freshly pounded garlic
- 1.5 tspns freshly pounded ginger
- The following lightly toasted, cooled and coarsely ground: 1 tblspn coriander seed, 1 tspn cumin, 1/2 tspn methi/fenugreek seed, 1 tspn black peppercorns, 3 star anise, as much cinnamon as star anise, 5 byadgi chillies, 3 hot dried red chillies
- 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 1 tspn or so of block tamarind, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 20 minutes, then squeezed to throughly extract all the pulp
- 1 tblspn jaggery/brown sugar
- 1 cup thick coconut milk (see Notes)
- 5 lime leaves, cut into strips
- 5 Thai chillies or similar, slit lengthwise
- 1-3 cups of water off the boil, as needed
- Heat 3 tblspns or so of oil over medium heat in a thick-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven conducive to slow cooking.
- When the oil shimmers add the onions and saute, stirring often until nicely browned.
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute, stirring often.
- Add the meat and salt and saute, stirring often, for about 10 minutes till beginning to brown.
- Add the haldi and ground spices, mix in and saute over medium-low heat for another 10 minutes.
- Strain the tamarind extract into the pan, pushing down on the strainer to get all the tamarindy goodness, and mix in.
- Add the brown sugar and another cup of water, mix in, cover the pan and cook on low heat till the meat is just tender. Uncover and stir from time to time; if the bottom begins to stick add a 1/2 cup of water just off the boil, mix and cover again; repeat as necessary. Do not let it scorch. When the meat is tender the sauce should be thick but pourable. If it isn’t add a bit of water to get it to that point and simmer for a few minutes to mix.
- Add the coconut milk, lime leaves and slit green chillies, mix in thoroughly, cover and cook on a high simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with steamed sticky rice or parathas.
- The final texture of the gravy should ideally be that of a just barely pourable sludge. Appetizing! The meat meanwhile should be tender but just short of falling apart. A little bit of the gravy should be enough for quite a lot of rice.
- And the rice should be slightly sticky. Avoid basmati.
- The byadgi chillies are mostly for colour. If you don’t have any you can use Kashmiri instead (those are affiliate links). You can make this hotter if you like but I wouldn’t advise it. It will have a nice after-burn as is.
- I’ve made it on both occasions with chuck but you could just as easily substitute brisket. That said, I like having the bone from the cut-up chuck roast in there. I do trim some of the larger seams of fat away.
- You could also do the first, longer part of this recipe in the slow cooker (obviating the need to check and add more water) and then transfer it to a saucepan before adding the coconut milk etc.
- Or on the stove-top you could add more water from the get-go and then reduce as necessary before adding the coconut milk.
- For the coconut milk I’ve recently been using the organic Thai Kitchen cans from Costco. All the thick cream is usually at the top of the can when I open one. For this I stir it all together and then pour out one cup. It’s still pretty thick.