Full disclosure. I did not create this recipe for Hyderabad mutton masala, but extracted it out of another recipe for biryani.
Before that, a word or two about my love affair with Indian food. From young, my friends used to tease me for having an “Indian stomach” because of my penchant for curries, masalas, etc. In fact, I used to joke that I knew what chicken varuval was, before the luxe Chinese delicacy, Buddha jumps over the monk!
Anyways, I became obsessed with dum biryani after eating it at a wonderful little cafe in Taman Desa KL. The rice and curry is not all mixed up when it is served to you. Instead, you can see and taste the distinct separation of layers of meat and rice.
From research, I figured out that there are basically three steps to a great biryani
1) Make the meat curry (in this case, the mutton masala)
2) Partially cook the rice
3) Assemble them in layers and finish steaming with a tight lid.
Unfortunately, overconfidence led to a biryani that was edible, but a far cry from the scrumptious one I’d had at Sam’s.
But there was an upside. The mutton masala was absolutely scrumptious.
Check out that glorious red colour!!! You can tell just looking at it. Slow cooked to perfection in all that rich curry of aromatic spices, the meat was fall off the bone tender and absolutely steeped in rich flavours. #partyinmymouth
Key to a great dum mutton biryani – a superb mutton masala
What I’ve come up with is a simplified version of a really good mutton masala.
I must credit this recipe to Indian chef Miss Smita Deo. I watched a lot of biryani videos, but her version stood out because of one unusual technique: she not only adds fried onions, she goes one step further by BLENDING them first into a paste before adding to the marinade.
My theory: this additional step lets the savoury-sweet aroma of the onions penetrate through the meat even more deeply than your standard mutton masala recipe, where the onions are just added to the cooking process directly.
Whether my logic is right or not, the mutton masala turned out damn good. I nailed it at first attempt too!
Anyway, enough talking. Here’s the recipe, and here’s the link to the original video by Smita.
Hyderabad Mutton Masala
- heavy bottom pot
- 350 g mutton shoulder
- 1 cup cooking oil to fry onions
- 2 big red onions, thinly sliced (+ 1-2 tbs water)
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1 tbs lemon juice (don't add too much or else too sour)
- 1/2-1 tbsp red chilli powder (up to your tolerance for spiciness)
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
- 1 tbs ghee
- Slice up red onions thinly. Heat up oil in heavy bottom pot. Fry onions until golden brown, but not burnt. Remove from oil and drain.
- To the fried onions, add 1-2 tbs water and peeled garlic cloves. Use a stick-blender to blend mixture into a paste.
- Rub garlic-onion paste, yogurt, red chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, ginger powder, salt and chopped coriander leaves into mutton. [See Note 1]
- Use the mutton straight away. Heat up a tbs of ghee in Dutch oven. Add marinated mutton. Add about half cup water, then cover with lid and cook on low flame for 45min-1 hour. The amount of time would depend on the cut of your meat, so adjust accordingly.
- Remove lid. Simmer further on low heat if curry is not thick enough. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
- Standard mutton masala recipes will call for ginger garlic paste, which I didn't have, so I improvised. I figured since I'm going to blend the onions anyway, I might as well blend them together with my raw garlic cloves. For the ginger, I used ginger powder for convenience.
- Another common ingredient in masala is green chilli. My recipe is a "simplified" version so I just used chilli powder for the heat.
- Mutton is naturally fatty, especially if you're using a shoulder cut like I did. What you can do is, after your mutton masala has cooled down, you can keep it in the refrigerator overnight and let the fat solidify, then scoop it off the next morning.