Laal Maas – In search of the True Laal Maas -- Chef Kunal Kapur
Chef Kunal Kapur
Fear of extinction is real and very serious, be it with the animal, plants or food. Dishes on the verge of extinction are as crucial as saving a tiger. A passionate foodie and a chef like me has a moral responsibility to try as much to research, preserve and spread the knowledge about the foods that we are slowly now loosing.
Ask an average foodie to name a few Rajasthani dishes and he will blur out the usual that one finds in most Rajasthani menus and festivitiy menus outside of Rajasthan. Dal bati churma, soola, gatta curry, bajra ki roti, Laal Maas…and it usually it ends there. No matter how aromatic these sound but what is really alarming about these dishes is that we are quickly loosing the authentic and classical ways of preparing our food. Furthermore many great Rajasthani dishes are on the verge of extinction simply because they just failed to be commercially famous on the menus.
The classic examples of such near extinct dishes are the Khargosh ka mokul (shredded rabbit in a yogurt curry), Khargosh ka Kheema, Khad Cooking (cooking meats in pits covered in sand), Kaleji ka Raita (yogurt laced with tempered lamb liver), Chakki ka Saag (Steamed wheat protein cakes) and numerous other dishes that were once iconic to the Rajasthani cuisine.
Few that are still alive are merely bad clones of the classical version. One such example is the “Laal Maas”. Literally translated it means “Red Meat”. It is characterized by its bold red colour and a spicy tang. Unarguably it is the most famous Rajasthani non vegetarian dish famous outside of Rajasthan. Right from the in flight menus of the luxury airliner to the festivity menus of 5 star menus and from the chef’s specials of big caterings to its molecular version it has fancied many and most of us at some point of our lives have tasted some version of the Laal Maas. The sad part is, most of us have tasted an abused version of it.
It is simply because since a very long time they (khansamas) have kept the recipes very close to their heart and never really shared the complete and true recipe. This has given an unwanted freedom to the present day chefs to create a version of their own and call it by its authentic name.
I am a passionate traveler and as I travel I look forward to eat the local cuisine. I love mutton and Laal Maas is one of my favorite dishes. In my endeavor to find the True Laal Maas I came across several versions within rajasthan. I must have had at least 8 different versions of the Laal Maas in rajasthan and furthermore encountered a lot of myths around the Fabled Dish.
I was so confused with what is the real recipe of the Laal Maas that at one point I almost gave up. But help comes to those who seek….and I was fortunate enough through Masterchef that for a task we travelled to the Palace of the Maharana of Udaipur. Maharaj Shriji Arvindji the 76th Maharana of Udaipur is the King of the oldest surviving dyn asty of the world.
And as big his name and might of his family is, in the same way are his Rajputana mannerisms. “Ghar par aaye mehman bina khaye nahi jaate”, he said in his enigmatic deep voice. So a royal buffet was laid for the entire crew that very night after the shoot in his palace. I was a very fortunate person to have sat with the Maharana himself over a lavish meal from his royal kitchen. Besides many dishes that night we were served Laal Maas made by the royal khansama. That gave me a good opportunity to have answers toall my confusion I had encountered. Maharana Shriji Arvindji was generous enough to clear a lot of myths on the Laal Maas and also asked his Khansama to give out the recipe from the royal kitchen. I am more than happy to share the myths and clarity on those myths and the True Laal Maas recipe.
Myths about the Laal Maas--
- Was originally made with wild boar or deer as it was a dish created by the hunters.
- It has to be extremely spicy.
- It has to have kashmiri chilli for colour.
- It is another version of roganjosh.
- Colour has to be added so much that it looks ridiculously red in order to go with the name.
- And the most abused version is the Punjabisized avatar where it is cooked with tomatoes.
To begin with Laal Maas is always made with mutton and not deer or wild boar (by the way one of the best quality of mutton comes from Rajasthan). It never uses tomatoes, instead uses buttermilk or curd for the acidity in the curry. The deep red colour and the spicy character comes from a special chilli called the “Mathania Red Chilly”, which comes from Mathania in Jodhpur.
It is unlike a roganjosh and is thick, semi dry curry. It has a redolent flavor of cloves and garlic and is made in mustard oil. It is very delicately smoked with charcoal; though that is an option cause another great version is made omitting the smoke.
Recipe of Laal Maas
- Mutton (cut in 1”pieces) – 500gms
- Mustard oil – 100 ml
- Cloves – 10 nos
- Onion sliced – 1 cup
- Ginger garlic paste – 6 tbl spn
- Mathania Chilly Paste – 4 tbl spn
- Salt – to taste
- Curd – 1 ½ cup
- Chopped garlic – 2 tbl spn
- Ghee – 2 tbl spn
- Charcoal – 1 small piece
Heat mustard oil till it smokes and immediately turn off the. Let it cool to medium hot. Turn on the fire and add the cloves, once it crackles add the sliced onion. Once it browns add the mutton and bhunno for 5 mins. Now add the ginger garlic paste and bhunno for another mins. Add the salt and mathania chilly paste. Bhunno uncovered for another 3 mins. Now increase the flame and add whisked yogurt. Keep stirring till the yogurt comes to a boil. Now simmer and cook till mutton is done. Add little water or stock if required at any stage. Separately heat 1 tbl spn of ghee and add chopped garlic. Brown it and add as a tempering to the mutton. Now place a piece of live charcoal in the cup and place the cup in the curry. Add a tbl spn of ghee and immediately cove with a lid and allow the smoke to infuse with the laal maas for about 3 mins. Remove the charcoal and heat it once again and serve hot.