Saturday, February 03, 2007

A lesson in Mutton Korma

On a recent bazaar walk near Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market), I spotted a group of men making mutton kurma for a feast in the evening. I stopped for five minutes to chat and photograph. I've promised to bring back colour photos the next time I go there.

So here's what I saw:

Step 1: Saute onions with garam masala, until the onions turn red. Lots and lots of onions, enough to thickly layer the bottom of this vessel. Lots of oil too. When the onions are ready, add the mutton.

The guy holding the mutton basket is the Master Chef. He was a man of few words, but clearly the boss. Actually, it was pretty cool to see. His vocabulary was a whole bunch of terse sentences, each with not more than 2 words. If he said something, the others would hop to it, pronto. They were pretty smooth as a team.

Step 2: Stir the mutton and onions together for about 5 minutes. Requires muscles.

Step 3: Ginger, garlic and green chillies - ground into a paste. Exercise discretion. This plate was heaped full, before most of it was added to the waiting mutton.

Step 4: Turmeric - lots of it. He actually just picked up a handful and flung it carelessly into the pot.

Step 5: Add a pan full of tomatoes. Clearly not a major ingredient, but a critical one.

Step 6: A litre of water, and a full handful of salt - looks delicious already.

Step 7: Now the magic trick - layer with more onions. This is about half way through the process of layering. By the time the layering was done, all the mutton was covered.

Step 8: Close and cook until the mutton is tender.

Step 9: Here's the team that orchestrated the whole thing. Master Chef with Assistants.


Karthik said...

Stupid question. Did u try it?

Deepa Krishnan said...

I'm vegetarian. I grew up in a Brahmin household. In this post, I was originally going to write about food taboos, different communities, and what the Brahmin side of me felt while seeing the mutton being cooked. There is a sense of physical nausea at the sight and smell of raw meat.

There were lambs and adult goats tied up nearby. I was also going to write about whether if you come face to face with your food, you start thinking differently about it. I saw a program on Discovery recently where small children at a farm had great difficulty understanding that their favourite pig had been slaughtered.

Do you know why I didn't write this stuff in the post? I felt really strongly that if I wrote something like that, it would diminish the pleasure that mutton eaters would get from this post. I don't have an agenda about propagating vegetarianism, and I don't think the whole world should be vegetarian.

- Deepa

Karthik said...

Ah. That would explain it. But don't worry about the "diminishing the pleasure" part. My wife (a brahmin) has been drumming that into my head for 10 yrs to no avail. She's a vegetarian and I obviously am not. But I do agree that knowing where your food comes can make people think before they eat.

Unfortunately I've been conditioned to satiate the taste buds than to pay attention to the ethical, moral and health issues of eating meat.

Eric Schlosser's 'Fast Food Nation' and 'Chew on this' have touched on related issues.

Btw, how many taboos did u break that day? I can count 3 (i think).

CanisLupus said...

I think you missed something by not tasting the finished korma, at least the rassa.

From the pics, I believe its being cooked on a coal fire (slow cooked) and since the vessel was covered its a crude "dum".

Having been born in a TamBrahm household, and then growing up in a cosmopolitan enclave in B'bay I cannot understand the negative effects that meat creates for some. I can understand the physical nausea since that's the body responding to the unfamiliar but the philosophical objections to eating meat is, well , puritanical.

I still enjoy eating meat and the times when I have gone to the market, got a fresh chicken / goat slaughtered, then waited for it to be cleaned and gutted and before cooking it (sometimes overnight) makes the experience wonderful.

My parents, being strict vegetarians, had objections similar to yours until Discovery started beaming in different cultures into their living room. They still will not eat it, but now when they see someone eating a big fat grub they understand.


Deepa Krishnan said...

Er...are you calling me puritanical? What a scary thought :)

I don't have a holier-than-thou attitude about being vegetarian. I don't eat meat because:

1) I grew up vegetarian, but did not get any pro-vegetarian propaganda from parents. Therefore I have no inclination to 'rebel' by eating meat, unlike some people I know.

2) Killing birds and animals doesn't feel good. I don't feel the same way about killing a plant, although plants are sentient beings too. There is no logic to this, only feeling.

- Deepa

Satish said...

nice post..loved the visuals.
Will surely experiment the mutton korma :))

maybe u would wanna add this to