Mutton specifically means the meat of an adult sheep in Western countries. However, in South Asia mutton refers to meat from a goat or sheep of any age. Although sheep and goat meat are similar in taste they can vastly differ in texture, fat content, and intensity of flavor. The breed, the age, and the way the animal was raised can result in variances of flavor and texture also.
What's the difference between sheep and goats?
While both hail from the subfamily Caprinae each is a distinct genus and species. Sheep (Ovis aries) have 54 chromosomes, while goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) have 60. The easiest way to tell the difference between a sheep and goat is to look at their tails. Goat's tails are usually up unless sick or distressed. Sheep tails hang down whether docked (shortened) or not. Sheep have a split upper lip, goats do not. Goats have beards, sheep do not. Sheep are grazers preferring short, tender grasses and clovers. Goat are foragers and will eat darned near anything high or low. Most often sheep have wool, whereas goats have hair. However, there are "hair sheep" without wool and goats with long hair that looks like wool. Goats are far more common than sheep in South Asia and are the preferred red meat here in Nepal. There are many different types of goats and sheep across South Asia depending upon elevation and climate.
|A bakra strolling down Bibi's driveway and soon to be our guest of honor for Eid.|
|Khasi = castrated goat|
|A Chyangra is domesticated mountain goat in Nepal.|
This domesticated mountain goat is called a chyangra which is pronounced "tsang-rah." These long haired goats live in the higher elevations of the Himalayas and are raised for fiber as well as meat. If you buy a pashmina from Nepal most likely the fiber was plucked from the underside of a chyangra. Chyangras are only brought down from the mountains in the Fall around the time of festival of Dashain for sacrifice. They are quite delicious! Their meat is dark, lean, rich, and surprisingly tender with a flavor much like good quality venison. I have a theory about the name of the fictional utopia called Shangri-La in James Hilton's famed book Lost Horizon. Others have guessed Shangri-La was a corruption of Shambhala, the name of the mythical Buddhist kingdom mentioned in Kalachakra teachings. Some have linked it to a region in Tibet called Tsang. I think Mr Hilton derived the name from "chyangra-la" which roughly translates to "mountain goat pass."
|Another guest of honor for Eid. Sheep always look so depressed.|
|Kaju sheep being sold for Eid in Kashmir.|
And then comes the messy part. After the animal has been slaughtered or sacrificed the mutton is usually chopped into whatever sized bits you wish with a cleaver on a wooden block. All of the animal is used. Every mutton eating culture in South Asia usually has specific recipes for nearly every part of the sheep or goat. In Nepal even the fried solidified blood is made into a special dish served during the festival of Dashain called rakahti.
|Goin' to a party?|
On October 8th of this year the Hindu festival of Dashain will start in Nepal. It is the longest, most popular, and most auspicious holiday on the Nepalese calendar. It is called Dussehra in India. Animal sacrifices are required during Dashain as the festival commemorates the bloody battles between divine and demonic powers. Goats are the most common animal chosen for the sacrifice in Nepal. The Nepalese government estimates the Kathmandu valley alone will demand around 60,000 goats during this celebration. Goat farmers in Nepal will only be able to supply about 20,000 goats so the remaining 40,000 goats will be have to be imported from India.
|They're doing WHAT in Kathmandu?|
That concludes today's discussion of mutton. Our internet provider has informed us that they will be upgrading their system for the next three weeks. This will cause internet service to be intermittently slow or nonexistent during this time. (Personally, I think they're just going on holiday for Dashain.) So, I'll be trying to post at least once or twice a week if possible. Bear with me!
Calmly currying on,