Last week, sitting with a new colleague for lunch–I had ordered a classic north Indian version of the ubiquitous biryani served across the country; she had ordered a very Kerala dish, one with beef–I wondered why I had not ordered what she ordered, since it is the more local dish, and I am still not vegetarian. The BBC makes me wonder again:
Not many people would associate India with beef. Spirituality yes, perhaps even vegetarianism, but certainly not beef.
But then they have probably never been to Kerala, the south Indian state that loves its beef – preferably fried.
The Kerala beef fry is the stuff of legend.
The best sort, I was told, is served at tiny shops by the roadside, so nondescript that you might miss them completely if not for the aroma wafting out.
It is a truly delicious smell with hints of coconut, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves, coriander powder and roasted chilly.
I visited one such shop, called the Paputty hotel.
Paputty does not bother with unnecessary items like menus. If you have bothered to come in, it’s assumed you want the beef fry.
That’s the only thing my hosts, Hari Lal and Ranjeet PA, want to eat, but to humour me they order a lavish spread including beef fry, beef curry, beef roast, as well as the quintessential Kerala bread, “Malabar parantha” and thin rice noodles called “idiyappam”.
“When I put beef fry in my mouth, my tongue tells me I am in real heaven now,” Hari tells me.
The key to this “heavenly” dish is coconut, a selection of Kerala spices and a lot of patience.
To make authentic beef fry or “Thanga Kotthu Irachi”, the meat has to be stir fried along with coconut flakes on a slow flame for half a day.
“Visitors prefer beef curry, made in a gravy of tomatoes and coconut milk, since that is what they associate with Indian food, but it is the beef fry that is the most popular preparation with locals in Kerala. Full of flavour, it can be had every day or made part of a special Sunday lunch,” Kerala chef Nimmy Paul, who organises cooking classes for tourists, tells the BBC…
Her recipe for beef fry incorporates a special preparation of ground spices that include coriander powder, chilli, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves.
This fragrant mixture is massaged on to small cubes of beef along with an equal portion of coconut chunks.
This is then all slow cooked in a pan with a heavy bottom. The more the beef is roasted, the darker the colour and richer the aroma of the dish.
“I love that it is so succulent and melts in my mouth, and unlike mutton and chicken, it is light on the stomach”, Ranjeet tells me at the hotel…
Read the whole article here.