Oct 8, 2018

Tariwala Mutton Curry

curry, easy, goat, gravy, Indian, lamb, Mutton, pushpesh pant, Recipe, simple, stew, tari, tariwala, tariwala mutton, venison,

"Tari" means sauce or gravy and it is traditionally quite thin in this classic Punjabi dish. Mutton or lamb is braised until tender with richly caramelized onions and aromatic spices in this simple home-style recipe.

This recipe is adapted from Pushpesh Pant's weekly column "Food Talk" in the Punjab-based newspaper The Tribune. Dr. Pant is a famed food historian, critic, and travel writer as well as a noted academic. He retired as a Professor of International relations from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in 2011. He is one of India's leading experts on international relations as well as Indian cuisine. He is the author of several books and has written articles for publications such as Forbes, Times of India, Outlook, and Open. Personally, I think he started India's modern 'foodie' movement!

curry, easy, goat, gravy, Indian, lamb, Mutton, pushpesh pant, Recipe, simple, stew, tari, tariwala, tariwala mutton, venison,

As Dr. Pant wrote in his newspaper column back in 2006 this is sort of the "Plain Jane" of mutton curries in northern India. Once standard dhaba and "no frills" diner fare Tariwala Mutton now seems too homely for restaurant menus and has been replaced by fancier dishes. But this is the style of mutton dish I've been served most when visiting Punjabis at home and it is one of my favorites! With the mild spices and thin, almost broth-like gravy you'll find this recipe to be a bit more like what we Westerners call a stew than what we think of as a curry. Caramelized onions are the flavor base of the  "tari" or thin gravy so be sure to allow plenty of time to get them to that deep golden stage. I normally make this dish with goat so I use a pressure cooker. If you are cooking tender lamb a deep skillet or Dutch oven atop the hob would be a better choice for simmering. Despite the humble ingredients, I'm sure you'll be amazed at the richness of flavor in this "Plain Jane" dish. Enjoy!

1 kg/2lbs mutton or lamb, cut into 2-inch pieces, bone in preferred
1/4 C cooking oil or ghee
4 onions, diced finely
4 black cardamoms/kali elaichi, bruised in mortar and pestle
4 cloves/laung
1 cassia leaf/tej patta
2-inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini or cinnamon quill
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
12 black peppercorns/kali mirch, coarsely ground
2 tomatoes, diced finely or pureed
1 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
2 tsp ginger/adrakh paste
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika plus 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
1 tsp turmeric/haldi
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1)  Heat the oil for 5 minutes in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan or 5-liter pressure cooker with 2 teaspoonfuls salt. Add onions to hot oil. Fry on high heat stirring constantly for about 10 minutes and then reduce heat. Continue until the onions turn golden. Don’t rush this as the color of the onions adds more flavor and color to the gravy. Err on the side of slightly under caramelized, if you burn the onions they'll be bitter and you'll have to throw them out and start over.

2) Add the cumin seeds, black peppercorns, black cardamoms, cloves, and cassia leaf and fry for about two minutes. Add tomatoes and fry for about 5 minutes or until oil separates. Now add the coriander, turmeric, red chili powder, ginger paste, garlic paste, and a  tablespoonful of water. Continue to stir-fry for about five minutes or until mixture becomes shiny.

3) Add the mutton pieces and cook on high heat for about 15 minutes. The liquid that comes out of the meat should evaporate and the mutton will become slightly brown.

4) If using pan: add 5 cups of water to the mixture and simmer over medium heat till it becomes tender. If using a pressure cooker: add 4 cups water, seal pressure cooker, and allow to steam for 2 whistles or until mutton is tender.

5) Once the mutton is cooked to desired tenderness there should be about two to three cups of gravy left, otherwise, add some hot water and bring it to simmer. Salt to taste and serve hot with rice, naan, or rotis.

Helpful hints:
If you find your onions are not quite as caramelized as they should be or the "tari" or sauce is not as deeply colored as you'd like- a good cheat is to add one tablespoonful of tinned tomato paste with the tomatoes at step 2. 


  1. almost can smell it..... yummmmmm*****
    thank you, bibi - for another easy to make recipe out of the fabulous kitchen of the indian subcontinent!

  2. I have eaten this soupy mutton dish or something similar at a muslim hotel at ajmer sharif shrine. The soup was lightly spiced with chunky mutton pieces. It tasted divine with khemere rotis. It was a staple food there. The consistency is like a regular dal or sabzi which makes it easier on the stomach for regular consumption.

    A few words about Dr. Pant. Very mild mannered like most learned people are. He wears many hats effortlessly. I was not able to place him correctly since in he is often called upon to give his views on everything under the sun. Much later i came to know that he is something of an indian food expert.


    1. Hi Apple,
      I first came to know of Dr Pant through his weekly columns in the Tribune on food wayyy back in 2001. Apparently back in the 70's he and the famed Punjabi restaurant owner Jiggs Kalra developed menus for hotels and hosted dinners featuring 'authentic' Indian dishes. So that is why I say he started the Indian 'foodie' movement. Only later did I learn Dr Pant was a professor at JNU.

    2. Happy Navaratras to you and family. May the auspicious feminine power be with you. Spicy mutton curry and hot puris, perfect Durga Pooja celebration food. There is also the tradition of cooking mutton on the ninth day of the Navaratras among Bengalis but in a vegetarian way i.e. without the use of onion and garlic.


    3. And a Happy Navatri and glorious Dashain to you & yours!
      I think that's hilarious how Bengalis prepare mutton in a "vegetarian" way.

    4. It is a bit complicated since the offering of meat to the deity acceptable under the Shakti cult. Hard to believe, but without onions and garlic, it is vegetarian. The vedic hinduism and the tantric traditions overlapped to create many such strange traditions in Bengal.

      Besides, among Hindus/Jains, onion and and garlic are more dangerous and unholy than meat. Onions and garlic are considered aphrodisiac. With their sharp smell and taste arouse unholy feelings and lead the mind astray.


  3. Time to admit that although I've eaten many lambs, I've never eaten mutton (unless it was that mystery meat served in the college cafeteria). I do like the notion of caramelized onions for any tough "mature" meat, so this recipe sounds good.

    Thanks, Bibi, for introducing me to Dr. Pant. Shall now be on the lookout for his books in the odd corners of bookstores!

    1. Hi Beth,
      "Mutton" means goat around here- not necessarily mature either! Goat is a bit gamey can be tough if not cooked properly. It's best made into curry in my opinion as it needs a lot of spice to counter the gamey-ness & improves with long cooking times or with pressure cooking.
      Dr Pant is an excellent writer & very interesting!

  4. This sounds delicious and had me salivating. I do enjoy a mutton curry!

  5. It may be simple, but that looks like exactly the sort of curry I like. Real comfort food.

  6. Goat ("Baby Mutton" as it is called) is readilly available and cheap where I live, and I don't understand why more people don't buy it. This recipe sounds like a keeper for the dead of winter.

    1. Hi Goody,
      Americans don't like anything gamey & prefer the fatty flavor of beef. I can't eat beef anymore as it is wayyy too fatty for my taste now.
      I'd only eaten goat at Mexican & Portuguese weddings in the US - but it was always available at carnicerias.


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