Let us unravel the mystery behind the authentic black mutton curry of Maharashtra.
The way India celebrates its diversity is unmatched. With a host of cultures, traditions and rituals, the Indian sub-continent is home to several culinary practises and eating habits. In one part of the country, you’ll find people hogging on a plate of momos with a red chilli chutney and a few thousand kilometres away, you’d notice someone standing with a crunchy bhelpuri and relishing the evening. We’ve got a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare to offer. Punjabis can’t live without their butter chicken and South Indians savour their Chettinad chicken with rice in peace. As a food enthusiast, I enjoy all these kinds of varieties and as they say, the more the merrier.
Maharashtra , being one of the largest states of the country, inhabits a mélange of flavours. Although Maharashtra, particularly Mumbai, is known for its lip-smacking street food like vada pavs, pav bhaji and pani-puri, they’ve got a rich and diverse fare hailing from different regions. The coastal ends of the state give rise to the Konkani cuisine. Things like kokum and coconut are quite commonplace in the regional palate. A lot of their curries are made from coconut milk while the former acts as an essential souring agent in several dishes. One authentic Konkani dish that caught our fascination was the Kaala Masala mutton curry, popularly known as the black mutton curry.
Discolouring The Mutton Curry
Maharashtrian fare is replete with meaty curries like malvani chicken curry and also has a fair share of seafood with jhingri (prawns) and fish. They often refer to the curries as rassa and the dry dishes as sukka which is why you’ll find dishes like Chicken Sukka and Mutton Sukka on their menu. However, it is this black mutton curry that has blown away our minds. A dark black gravy dunked with tender mutton pieces is found in several Konkani households.
The etymology of this regional favourite is also quite simple, given the colour of the curry. What is more intriguing is the ingredient which lends the dish a dish appearance. Turns out it is not any secret ingredient but rather a lack of it which makes the mutton curry come out completely black. Devoid of any haldi or turmeric in the cooking process, the dish acquires its colour from the other ingredients which are used to season it like charred onions and roasted coconut.
The raw textures and smoky flavours of this paste adds a dark brown/black hue to the gravy, making it a unique Maharashtrian dish. Moreover, the dish is also known by the name of Khandeshi mutton curry. The significance of this lies in the fact that the dish originates from a small district of Maharashtra called Khandesh. This region was ruled by the Rajputs, Mughals and the Delhi Sultanate for many years and that’s what is clearly reflected in the special Khandeshi kaala masala.
Often referred to as Maharashtra’s garam masala, this black spice mix consists of green cardamom, nutmeg, saunth, khus khus and many others which are a gift of the Mughals. A close cousin of the well-known Goda masala of Maharashtra, the Khandeshi masala is used in preparation of several chicken and mutton curries, including the black mutton curry and most often contains dagadphool in it. These whole spices lend the Kaala Mutton a robust colour and intoxicating flavour.