Ahuna mutton or Champaran meat! This classical mutton preparation's flavours are going viral in many Indian cities. Its growing popularity across the country has given rise to scores of small outlets plying their regional culinary craft of cooking ‘Mutton in a Handi’. The epicentre of this famous dish is the Champaran region of Bihar, and ‘Ahuna’ is the Bhojpuri name for the Earthenware Pot or Handi used in its cooking. Rows and stacks of ‘Ahuna’, the fragrance of meat cooked over the embers of charcoal, and meat enthusiasts enjoying their finger-licking experience are now usual sights at many such eateries.

Ahuna Mutton Or Champaran Meat is so delectable and fulfilling that often during my travels, a portion of this Handi Meat with some hot chapatis becomes my go-to meal. Every time I dig in to enjoy the preparation, I can’t help but ponder the reasons for its spectacular success, and here I will share with you some of those reasons I thought through.

Unique Method of Cooking

The process of cooking in an earthen pot makes all difference. Being porous allows the heat to distribute evenly, making the meat tender and flavourful. Cooking over charcoal is another aspect of this cooking style that is ideal for the meat and spices to combine well over low heat. This unique style of preparation and traditional cooking setup attracts meat lovers to try out the earthy and irresistible flavours of Ahuna Mutton.

Quality of meat

The cooking process is longer than usual; however, the smaller/younger the goat is, the less time it takes to cook. The quality of the final preparation also depends on the size of the goat; thus, most Ahuna mutton outlets aim to keep superior quality meat, which defines the reason for the outlet’s success.

Mustard Oil

Mustard oil is the defining taste of this preparation. The pre-heated mustard oil provides the dish with a sharp flavour. Most Bihari dishes are cooked in mustard oil, perfect for long and slow frying (Bhunjna/Bhunaai) and for ‘one pot preparations’ like Ahuna Meat. 

Spices

Spices in Ahuna Mutton play a significant role, as the meat is devoid of any tomatoes, butter, cream, or curd but is flavoured predominantly by spices. Often a mix of whole spices like Cardamom, Cinnamon, black pepper and clove is used, and ground spices are pre-mixed with onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, mustard oil, and meat. This marination is followed by 60 minutes of methodical cooking. And here we go, the addictively spicy Ahuna Meat is ready. 

Accompaniments 

Most Ahuna mutton outlets focus on a limited number of dishes, which makes it easier for a start-up restaurant to get going. Rohu fish fried in mustard oil and Bihari Mutton Kebabs are often found on the menu; a chicken version of Ahuna meat is also available at most outlets; however, it’s often the accompaniment to the Numero uno dish which excites me the most, like the Whole Garlic Pod, which is cooked with the meat in a handi and served along with the dish.

Wow!! I can undoubtedly say that I am supremely in love with Ahuna meat, primarily because of this garlic pod. With flavours of spices and juices of the meat, utterly drunk by the garlic pod, this piece is for all of you flavour lovers to devour.

Sattu Paratha, steamed Rice, puffed rice, or the pride of Bihar- ‘Litti’, can be considered ideal accompaniments to Ahuna Meat. It’s an absolute pleasure to enjoy the flavours of such indigenous dishes on one platter, as it gives you a true and complete experience of Bihari cuisine and its culinary traditions.

With a sizeable population of natives from the state of Bihar working and plying their services in all other Indian states, and with people from the rest of India growingly becoming fond of Bihari flavours, Ahuna meat is here to grow and it will soon become the loved flavour of each town and city of our country.

Sidharth Bhan Gupta is a Hospitality/F&B Consultant travelling across India exploring regional cuisines.