Thursday, 14 May 2009

Mutton Varuvel

I grew up with lots of curries. The thing is, I always thought that anything cooked with lots of spices, chilli powder and curry powder was called a curry. It didn’t matter if it was a dry curry or a wet curry. It was all curry to me.

In my later years, when I started to cook in University, my mates and I followed the same rule. Hot, Spicy, Delicous = Curry. No matter if it was wet or dry. It was all curry to us.

The problem with curry started when I got married. You see, to The Lovely Wife, a curry entails lots of gravy, or Kolumbu. So a chicken curry would mean that there would be a lot of curried gravy aka kolumbu. A drier curry with some gravy, but not enough to be considered a curry would be a Peratal. Then a really dry curry would be a Varuvel.

I began to realise though that The Lovely Wife was right – as she quite often is. You see, even the South Indian Restaurants that we have in Malaysia serve their curries this way – Curry, Peratal and Varuvel. And if you only wanted the curry without any meat then it would be Kolumbu. See? Who said Indian food was easy and simple. And that’s only South Indian food… I haven’t started on Northern Indian cuisine and the naming conventions yet!!

The Lovely Wife and I both cook mutton varuvel although our methods and ingredients differ. This dish was made by The Lovely Wife as my little princess has developed a taste for mutton curry - any version, wet, dryish or dry – it doesn’t matter as long as its mutton!

This is what The Lovely Wife did:

Ingredients A

1.5 kg lean mutton or lamb
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp chilli powder
2 green chillies cut into 3 pieces
1 large tomato - sliced
3 tbsp ground ginger and garlic
3 onions

Ingredients B

2-3 Tbsp Curry Powder
1 Tbsp Chilli Powder
2 stalks curry leaves
5 dried chillies
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
2 star anise
1/2 tsp fennel powder
1 Tbsp Dark Soya sauce

cube meat and put in a large pot. Cover meat with water with a little salt. Put in ingredients A and cook till meat is tender. Keep adding water if it dries up and meat is still not tender. Once meat is cooked, keep stirring till mixture is thick.

In a separate wok or large pot, heat a little oil and fry onions. Add in curry leaves, chillies, cinamoon, cloves and star anise. Fry till fragrant. Add in curry powder and chilli powder and cook well. Mix in meat and stir so that meat is well coated. Add in some water if too dry. Keep stirring until mixture is almost dry. Add in dark soya sauce and mix well. Season with salt to taste. Just before turning off the heat, sprinkle over the fennel powder and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves.

My version would include some tomatoes and more curry powder and chilli powder but other than that there’s not too much difference although I think my version is tastier!

So after all those years of enjoying my mother’s dry mutton curry and proclaiming it to be the best in the world, I have finally realised that that it is actually a Mutton Varuvel! It doesn’t really matter though as the ‘song’ below explains. It is sung to Billy Joels “Always a woman” and is just a bit of fun to end this post…

A varuvel is dry
while a peratal is wetter
A Curry has gravy and can flood all the rice
They are all hot and spicy and can burn your mouth
Call it whatever you like
But its always a Curry to me……


Naomi said...

The best!
My absolute favourite dish - thanks for sharing the recipe.
This should be on the Malaysian Omnivours 100.

maybelle's mom said...

Alright--first, I am glad to be back to reading blogs. 7.5 mos along and still nauseated but I am able to eat. And, thanks for your well wishes.

Second, I am glad that you know your wife is usually right.

Third, this looks yum; though I do like my curry with more gravy.

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Yummy...I love mutton varuvel. Thanks to you, I'll never get confused either (even tho a curry by any other name is still a curry)!

Btw, I have always been reading ur blog diligently, O master of guilt! :-P

Kavs said...

Always left the mutton varuvel to grandmom and aunts (lol... or the banana leaf rice vendor) cos I had this notion it was one of those utterly complicated dishes.

;-) time for me to go show off at the next family function...

Foodycat said...

It looks fantastic. I really like the technique of adding the different layers of flavours. I have some goat meat in the freezer and I think it would respond brilliantly to this!

Would you serve this with rice? What other side dishes?

Dharm said...

sorry for the late response.
Yes! This is best eaten with rice but would also go well with maybe some Pita bread (in lieu of Indian bread like Chapati) and even slices of bread. As a side dish, this would go well with Raita (Yoghurt with carrots, cucumber - or just plain youghurt!) and any stir fried veges or perhaps blanced spinach with onions and a litle curry powder....

Foodycat said...

I'm making it this weekend - I'll do rice, an aubergine dish and some pickled pineapple.

JehanP said...

Yumm!! I love curry, and my favorite is lamb curry. You have made my eyes very happy! This looks exceptionally good!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Im a Msian living abroad and missing Msian food like crazy. Planning to try this. I noticed that theres no use of salt?? If it was an error, shld salt be in Ingredient A or B, or just hantam and put and go along? :P I also cannot find fennel powder here. Do u think i can do without? Thanks!

Dharm said...

i never list salt as an ingredient but if you read the method it is mentioned to season with salt at the end..... So yes la, just hantam how much salt you'd like


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