Often found on the menus of dhabbas and restaurants all around Pakistan, served on special occasions and get-togethers, Mutton Karahi is just the epitome of good Pakistani food.
I’ve spoken about how dear Karahis are to me and my memories of family dinners growing up here in my Chicken Karahi recipe – Karahi for me was the desi equivilant of Sunday roast.
This recipe is a build-up of that Chicken Karahi recipe – the red meat equivalent which is equally as loved (and perhaps even preferred) by many.
The recipe I’m sharing today is for both a lamb and mutton Karahi. I’ve grouped both together because they are very similar meats, the only methodological difference being their cook time. Lamb I find is cooked more frequently here in the UK than mutton and mutton is the red meat of choice in Pakistan. To be honest, I am unsure about trends in other countries (you can let me know in the comments if you have any input here). Safe to address both in one recipe, I say!
What is a Karahi?
I’ve addressed this at more length in my Chicken Karahi recipe, but will give a quick sum up here.
A Karahi is the name of a wok-like cooking pan used in South Asia – its pretty handy when you want to cook something that has a lot of stirring action due to its shape.
This particular type of curry I’m sharing today has taken its name on from the cooking pan. However the pan in which its cooked isn’t its most defining feature. A Karahi is a tomato, ginger and garlic heavy curry which traditionally is not cooked with onions or yogurt, unlike most other curries.
Online, you will find very few Karahi recipes which do not utilise onions or yogurt. Over the years, the traditional Karahi has been altered to suit the many different dhabas and restaurants it is served at mostly in making it cheaper by bulking up the masala with onions, which are a lot cheaper than tomatoes. Due to this, most people have integrated onions into their home-cooked Karahi recipes without actually knowing this is not the traditional way.
Of course, adding onions into the masala alters the taste and texture. When you make the masala as it is traditionally made, with a heavy hand on the ginger and garlic and plenty of tomatoes, you will taste the real deal, authentic flavour and for real you will be blown away! For those who may be skeptical of whether a curry without onions would be enough or even work, I am here to assure you… This masala is plentiful and finger-licking delicious!
Some Karahi Cooking Rules
I just want to lay down some ground-rules when it comes to cooking any Karahi recipe the authentic way, just so you can really get a feel of how Karahis are an inherently different to other curries.
- Karahis are usually cooked on a high heat throughout the entire cooking process and without the lid, as per my Chicken Karahi and Prawn Karahi recipe. However, we have to make an exception for lamb and mutton because they just won’t cook through properly without a slow simmer. Therefore, we do have to simmer this before we actually begin on the masala. Some restaurants actually boil the mutton or lamb first till 80% done before using it, however I don’t like to do this as I feel it’s extra unnecessary hassle. This tip isexclusive for red meat Karahis only!
- There’s a HUGE emphasis on fresh and crisp flavours in a Karahi. I highly recommend using fresh ingredients for this – no tinned or jarred ingredients please. Mince the ginger and garlic fresh, chop the fresh tomatoes and ensure your coriander and green chilli is fresh too! Trust me, it makes all the difference here
- We gotta use a LOT of ginger and garlic – it delivers the most amazing flavour AND also helps bulk up the masala a bit! I use one entire bulb of garlic for this recipe, but you can easily use two if you want a pronounced garlicky flavour. Same goes for the ginger too, easily double-able!
- Not a cooking rule, but due to the lack of onions in this curry, Karahis pair really well with an onion-y salad on the side
On to the recipe!
If you make this dish, I’d love to see it! You can show me on Instagram – I’m @fatima.cooks 🙂
- 1/2 cup oil or ghee
- 500g lamb or mutton, bone in preferably
- 600g tomatoes, finely chopped or pureed
- 1 bulb garlic, minced
- 1 thumb sized chunk of ginger, minced
- 2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 2tsp paprika or kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1.5tsp black pepper
- 1tsp chilli flakes
- 0.5 tsp cumin powder
- 0.5 tsp coriander powder
- 1tsp onion seeds (kalonji, optional)
- 2 green chillis, slit in half if you like your Karahi hot
- 0.5 bunch coriander, chopped
- Ginger cut into matchsticks, as much as desired
- Heat up your oil/ghee in a wok, cast iron skillet or karahi. Add the lamb/mutton and fry on high, stirring constantly until all the meat has changed its colour
- Add the minced ginger and garlic and give this a quick fry, until the raw smell goes away. Don't allow the ginger and garlic to colour too much
- Add all the spices and 1/1.5 cups of water for lamb and 2.5/3 cups of water for mutton. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and put to lid on. Simmer for 1hr for lamb and 2hrs for mutton. Keep checking during this time to ensure there is sufficient water and top up a little as and if required
- Once the simmer time is up, the meat should be 80% done and there shouldn't be much water in the pan. The pan will look quite oily (remember, you can remove the oil at the end if you want!)
- Turn the heat to high. Add the tomatoes. Let this cook on high, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan. The tomatoes will release A LOT of moisture. Keep stirring and just allow everything to concentrate
- Once the gravy (masala) looks wet but almost done and the oil is beginning to come to the surface, add in the chopped coriander and green chilli. Turn the heat to low and allow this to simmer without the lid on for 5 minutes
- Garnish with additional chopped coriander and the matchstick-cut ginger
If the tomato skin bothers you, you can take it off before chopping