Ularthiyathu: Kottayam’s Favourite Beef Fry
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If you’ve ever experienced the explosion of flavours that occurs when a mouthful of spicy beef fry meets a flaky Malabar parotta, you have experienced the magic of Syrian Christian cuisine. For the Syrian Christians of Kerala, food is at the heart of every gathering and celebration. This sub-division of the Catholic rite, also known as the Mar Thoma or Syro-Malabar Christians, finds its Indian roots in Kerala and dates back to 52 AD with the arrival of St. Thomas the apostle on the East Indian shores and today’s community are all ostensibly descendants of Christians baptised by the Saint himself. 

And with this long history, comes an equally rich food culture which varies across regions and highlights the individuality of each area. One dish that is beloved among the community is the Kottayam Style Beef Ularthiyathu which is similar to the traditional Kerala Beef Fry but with a few local tweaks.

This dish is a common accompaniment in toddy shops in the city of Kottayam and although best enjoyed with a parotta can also be served with rice. It’s also a huge favourite around wedding season often showing up on the eve of the big day or as part of the wedding feast itself. 

The unique element is the fried coconut pieces and liberal use of black pepper that gives the dish its signature aroma. Though it’s traditionally made with beef, people often substitute chicken or mutton too, the only caveat is that the unique black colour might be hard to achieve without slow roasting the beef.

Though it’s a lengthy process, the results speak for themselves and if you’re interested in bringing home this unique taste of Kerala, we have a recipe to help you along.


Roast Beef

  • 1 kg beef 
  • 100 gm shredded onions
  • 5 green chilies split
  • 25 g ginger chopped
  • 25 g garlic chopped
  • 2 nos tomatoes chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Water as required
  • Salt to taste

Beef Fry

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • Fresh coconut quarter sliced into small pieces 
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 4 stems of curry leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard 
  • 1 tsp powdered black pepper

Garam Masala

  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick 
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper seeds


  • First prepare your garam masala by grinding together the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper seeds and fennel.
  • To prepare the roast beef, slice the onions, slit the chillies lengthwise, finely mince your garlic and ginger and chop your tomatoes. 
  • Add the meat and vegetables into a pot with water, add the lemon, turmeric and garam masala and start cooking on low heat. 
  • Let it simmer almost dry but cooked before setting it aside.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan and add a pinch of mustard seeds and allow them to splutter in the hot oil.
  • Add more chopped onions and saute till brown.
  • Add curry leaves and coconut pieces and saute till brown.
  • Add the previously prepared beef and powdered black pepper.
  • Stir in gentle heat until dark and fully roasted but not completely dry.