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Mutton varuval

In Premarani’s home, this varuval is one of her most prized dishes, one which her children and relatives demand for every Deepavali. Straying from tradition, this varuval takes on a Malaysian tinge with the addition of two types of soy sauces and a unique blend of spices.
The resulting dish is ominously dark, dry, and matte—and packs a serious punch when paired with ghee rice. At Premarani’s home, this dish is also often served in small, individual portions as an appetiser for guests. If you’re lucky enough to be a guest at her home, it’s dangerously easy to go through chunk after chunk of this varuval, a cold beer in your hands while a Tamil series crackles in the background.

Mutton varuval

by Premarani Somu

In Premarani’s home, this varuval is one of her most prized dishes, one which her children and relatives demand for every Deepavali. Straying from tradition, this varuval takes on a Malaysian tinge with the addition of two types of soy sauces and a unique blend of spices.
The resulting dish is ominously dark, dry, and matte—and packs a serious punch when paired with ghee rice. At Premarani’s home, this dish is also often served in small, individual portions as an appetiser for guests. If you’re lucky enough to be a guest at her home, it’s dangerously easy to go through chunk after chunk of this varuval, a cold beer in your hands while a Tamil series crackles in the background.

Servings: 4

Servings: 4

FOR THE MUTTON:

1kg mutton, preferably bone-in lean meat from leg, cut into chunks

1 tbsp garlic, pounded into a paste

2 tbsp ginger, pounded into a paste

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp salt

Water, as needed

 

FOR THE ROAST POWDER:

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

 

FOR THE VARUVAL:

3 tbsp cooking oil

3 sticks cinnamon

4 pods green cardamom

2 star anise

½ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp fennel seeds

4 medium red onions, one diced, three thinly sliced (divided)

2 tbsp chilli powder

1 ½ tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp kicap manis

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced or cut into rings

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp cinnamon powder

Salt, to taste

1 red chilli, thinly sliced on a diagonal

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 sprigs coriander leaves, tender stems and leaves roughly chopped

COOK MUTTON:

  1. In a large bowl, combine mutton chunks with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt. Mix well.
  2. Place the mutton in a large wok or pot and cover with enough water so that the liquid covers the mutton by about two inches. Switch on your heat to medium, cover the wok, and allow the meat to gently boil for about one hour or until the meat tenderises and reaches your desired doneness. Top up the water if the liquid evaporates too quickly.
  3. When the mutton is cooked, strain the mutton from the liquid and set the meat aside. Save the mutton cooking water.

 

ROAST POWDER:

  1. While the mutton is cooking, put 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Over low heat, dry-roast the spices for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Leave to cool.
  2. When the spices are cool, use a spice blender, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle to grind the spices into a fine powder. Set this roast powder aside.

 

COOK VARUVAL:

  1. Heat a large wok or pot over medium-high heat. Add cooking oil.
  2. When oil shimmers, add cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, star anise, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds. Stir for a few seconds until fragrant.
  3. Add one diced red onion and cook until translucent.
  4. Add chilli powder and mutton and stir. Add remaining three sliced red onions and stir again. Lower the heat and continue to cook, about 20 minutes or until the chilli powder cooks out and loses its raw taste. If the mixture is too dry at this point, add one or two tablespoons of the reserved mutton cooking water.
  5. Add dark soy sauce, kicap manis, and yellow onion slices. Stir until the mixture darkens and the soy sauces coat the meat and onion slices.
  6. Now add the roasted cumin-fennel powder, garam masala, and cinnamon powder. Stir thoroughly and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add salt to taste.
  7. Turn off the heat. Scatter sliced red chilli, spring onions, and coriander leaves to garnish.

Tips

  • Throw in a couple of bone marrows if you like. A blend of fatty and lean cuts can also be used for oilier gravy. Lamb or goat meat can also be used.
  • The mutton can be cooked in a pressure cooker according to your cooker’s instructions. Between four to five whistles is recommended for tender mutton.
  • The final dish should be very dry, and the masala should cling to the meat. Avoid adding too much water after adding the chilli powder and cooked mutton, as this will result in masala that’s too watery that won’t be able to cling to the meat.
  • You want to achieve a dark, nearly-black colour in the final dish. Add more dark soy sauce if necessary to get there, but be wary about going overboard as it might make the dish too sweet. Premarani prefers Cheong Chan (Elephant) Caramel Dark Soya Sauce when making this dish.
  • Editor’s note: If you like mamak-style mutton soup, save the mutton stock and use it in your favourite recipe.

Ingredients

FOR THE MUTTON:

1kg mutton, preferably bone-in lean meat from leg, cut into chunks

1 tbsp garlic, pounded into a paste

2 tbsp ginger, pounded into a paste

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp salt

Water, as needed

 

FOR THE ROAST POWDER:

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

 

FOR THE VARUVAL:

3 tbsp cooking oil

3 sticks cinnamon

4 pods green cardamom

2 star anise

½ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp fennel seeds

4 medium red onions, one diced, three thinly sliced (divided)

2 tbsp chilli powder

1 ½ tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp kicap manis

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced or cut into rings

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp cinnamon powder

Salt, to taste

1 red chilli, thinly sliced on a diagonal

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 sprigs coriander leaves, tender stems and leaves roughly chopped

Directions

COOK MUTTON:

  1. In a large bowl, combine mutton chunks with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt. Mix well.
  2. Place the mutton in a large wok or pot and cover with enough water so that the liquid covers the mutton by about two inches. Switch on your heat to medium, cover the wok, and allow the meat to gently boil for about one hour or until the meat tenderises and reaches your desired doneness. Top up the water if the liquid evaporates too quickly.
  3. When the mutton is cooked, strain the mutton from the liquid and set the meat aside. Save the mutton cooking water.

 

ROAST POWDER:

  1. While the mutton is cooking, put 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Over low heat, dry-roast the spices for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Leave to cool.
  2. When the spices are cool, use a spice blender, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle to grind the spices into a fine powder. Set this roast powder aside.

 

COOK VARUVAL:

  1. Heat a large wok or pot over medium-high heat. Add cooking oil.
  2. When oil shimmers, add cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, star anise, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds. Stir for a few seconds until fragrant.
  3. Add one diced red onion and cook until translucent.
  4. Add chilli powder and mutton and stir. Add remaining three sliced red onions and stir again. Lower the heat and continue to cook, about 20 minutes or until the chilli powder cooks out and loses its raw taste. If the mixture is too dry at this point, add one or two tablespoons of the reserved mutton cooking water.
  5. Add dark soy sauce, kicap manis, and yellow onion slices. Stir until the mixture darkens and the soy sauces coat the meat and onion slices.
  6. Now add the roasted cumin-fennel powder, garam masala, and cinnamon powder. Stir thoroughly and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add salt to taste.
  7. Turn off the heat. Scatter sliced red chilli, spring onions, and coriander leaves to garnish.

Tips

  • Throw in a couple of bone marrows if you like. A blend of fatty and lean cuts can also be used for oilier gravy. Lamb or goat meat can also be used.
  • The mutton can be cooked in a pressure cooker according to your cooker’s instructions. Between four to five whistles is recommended for tender mutton.
  • The final dish should be very dry, and the masala should cling to the meat. Avoid adding too much water after adding the chilli powder and cooked mutton, as this will result in masala that’s too watery that won’t be able to cling to the meat.
  • You want to achieve a dark, nearly-black colour in the final dish. Add more dark soy sauce if necessary to get there, but be wary about going overboard as it might make the dish too sweet. Premarani prefers Cheong Chan (Elephant) Caramel Dark Soya Sauce when making this dish.
  • Editor’s note: If you like mamak-style mutton soup, save the mutton stock and use it in your favourite recipe.

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© Copyright Periuk 2021

© Copyright Periuk 2021

 
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