India’s love affair with mutton is no strange fiction. From Kashmir’s Rogan Josh to Bengal’s Kosha Mangsho and Tamil Nadu’s Mutton Sukka, this red meat is a favourite in Indian kitchens, especially, when you are set to prepare something indulgent. Nothing quite spells decadence as a bowl of good mutton curry. Maharashtra’s Kolhapur has an entire thali dedicated to mutton, replete with various mutton-based delicacies, chief among which are two gravy dishes, the Pandhra Rassa (mutton cooked in white curry) and Tambda Rassa (mutton cooked in red curry). The Kolhapuri cuisine is renowned for its spicy, vibrant and bold flavours, and you should expect no less from this thali. There’s of course a fine way of maintaining balance. The thali is rich and rustic at the same time, and a meat lover’s dream come true.

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Calling it a ‘memorable meal every single time!’, in her book, ‘My Romance With Food’ celebrity chef Roopa Nabar, writes, “the mere arrival of one (Kolhapuri mutton thali) at your table gives you an idea of the ‘Pahunchar’ or famous hospitality of Kolhapur. A meticulously made meaty delight, all the dishes in this meal are meant to be made and eaten in tandem with each other.”  

What truly makes the Thali sensational is the fiery Kolhapuri Masala or chutney, which is essentially a red-coloured masala powder, which is a blend of many hot spices. It is this masala that makes most Kolhapuri dishes so fiery and punchy.  

The typical components of a ‘Kolhapuri Thali’ includes Sukka Mutton, which is a hot, dry mutton dish, Pandhra and Tambda Rassa, watery curries, defined by their colours, while Pandhra Rassa is white in colour, made with onions, cashew nuts, coconut and spices, Tambda Rassa is a relatively hotter and red in colour, made with chillies, Kolharpuri masala et al. These curries are served with onions, roti, lemon wedges and rice or Goli Bhaat.  

‘Goli’ refers to small, bullet-sized balls made of minced mutton. These mutton balls are cooked with rice, onions, spices and ghee for a wholesome rice dish that is as good on its own, as it is when paired with the other feisty curries on the plate.    

The Kolhapuris really love their mutton and if you call yourself a true mutton fan then you must try this traditional mutton meal once. You can make the Pandhra Rassa at home too. Here’s a recipe.