One of my Mami (maternal aunt) is Sindhi. She is born and brought up in Kolkata, speaks Bengali fluently too. And she loves shukto and luchi more than any average Bengali. She never lets a chance go to wear her shankha-pola and go for a Sindoor khela. A lady with multiple talents and the power to turn anything to gold with her Midas touch, she has been a great cook too. I consider her as one of the earliest food bloggers (nothing existed at that time though) who curated recipes for Sananda, Femina, and various publications. To date, when in Delhi we crave her cooking.
Sunday Mutton Curry
It was one of the family zoom calls after my return from Covid on a Sunday. The entire family was expressing their love for Robibarer Mangshor jhol. Each family member had their own version and that’s what getting unified by food has always been. It was a rare occasion when Madhushree didn’t have Mutton in the refrigerator. However, there was Keema or minced mutton. Along came Mami’s suggestion and also an interesting story.
If not Mnagshor jhol then the best alternative is Murgir Jhol
Keema Bhindi and the Sunday memories.
This is actually an inspiration from Bhindi Gosht recipe and the process as she describes goes into making Bhindi Gosht. However, Lockdown changed a lot in us and made us look for a substitute. In this case, mutton was replaced with frozen/ stored keema. Hence Keema Bhindi. The process starts from buying the mutton, in her words –
I can’t remember the name of the meat shop in Bhowanipore, Kolkata, because Daddy taught us to refer to the friendly face as ‘Chachu’ who always greeted me and my Twin sister with a big grin and ‘kaise ho Beta’. Every Sunday, Daddy took both of us to purchase mutton for Sunday’s lunch.
At home (only a 5-minute walk), masala was prepared. Ginger, garlic, and green chillies were being ground on the sheel nora, while Dada was busy chopping 1 kg of onions into small pieces. Dad would return with 1 and a half kgs of ‘raan ka meat’ as Mummy always reminded him.
How roles in the family got distributed amongst all for Keema Bhindi
Didi would be preparing the bhindis for the Gosht mein bhindi.
Daddy would put up the kasar handi, add loads of ghee, sabot garam masala and begin the cooking. The gosht would be cooked with the onions over low flame for 2 hours adding spices tomatoes and tbsps of water. Slow cooking, Dad would once a while stir it. The gosht almost always didn’t need the pressure cooker (Daddy didn’t know how to use the pressure cooker) yet was perfectly done. This happened all in time for Dada to enjoy it as soon as he returned from his para adda. Those were the days! Isn’t that the Sunday story for most of us growing up?
What is Sindhi cuisine all about?
This cuisine in particular has always piqued my curiosity. As Maryam Jillani writes in this beautiful piece – How do you tell the story of cuisine that lives and breathes in two countries and refuses to identify itself with either? Maryam goes on to write -Sindhi cuisine, which features a range of complex flavours through simple, seasonal ingredients, defies simple categorisations. It is informed by the subcontinent’s rich migrant history, yet firmly rooted in its geography while tying thousands of diaspora Sindhis to the land they might never have visited.
As I was attending a course with Chef Jyoti, a Masterchef India contestant who works largely into Sindhi cuisine, and we discussed Sindhi cuisine. Chef Jyoti, says – Sindhi Cuisine is a very versatile cuisine influenced by nearby regions like Afghanistan, Persia, Balochistan, Multan, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat. In places ruled by Arabs, Mughals, and Turkish emperors. However, this cuisine has its own unique identity as a diasporic cuisine.
What are the salient features of Sindhi cuisine?
Jyoti confirmed the salient features of Sindhi cuisine are that it’s doesn’t include dairy or nuts in its basic gravies. The main taste profile is sour, spicy, and pungent because of the heavy use of garlic and onion. With my limited knowledge, I could ask about some of the popular dishes. The most popular dish in Sindhi cuisine is Sindhi Kadhi which is gram flour, tomato and tamarind-based, and dairy-free. There is also Dal Pakwan – crispy thin fried maida discs served with chana daal topped with chopped onions and tangy spicy chutneys. Sai Bhaji – Spinach, Dill and chana dal tempered with garlic and Alu tuk – Double fried crispy potatoes tossed in spices
No, I haven’t had any of them, perhaps time for me to ask my Mami to make these for me when I visit her once again. However, for this Sunday, let’s throw in some Bhindi into the keema or vice versa, add some ghee, and Sunday is sorted. What’s your Sunday escape?
P.S. – As I asked around about the origin of the recipe, there were various Sindhi friends and acquaintances who had a doubt about the origin of this dish in Sindh area or a part of the cuisine. We leave it open here and keep researching. In case you have come across the origin of the recipe or have seen this being made in any Sindhi household then please let me know.
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- 500 gms mutton keema not finely minced
- 2 tbsp onion paste
- 2 tbsp chopped onion
- 3 tbsp ghee
- ½ inch cinnamon
- 2 nos cloves
- 3 nos cardamom
- 1 no bayleaf
- 2 tsps ginger paste
- 2 tsps garlic paste
- 1 tsp green chili paste
- 4 nos tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp roasted jeera powder
- 1 tbsp red chili powder
- salt to taste
For the bhindi/okra
- 250 gms okra
- 1 tsp amchur powder
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp roasted jeera powder
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 large onion cut into rings
- chopped coriander leaves
- Wash the bhindis and pat dry with a towel to remove all moisture.
- Cut both ends and make a slit in each of the bhindis. Sprinkle amchur, red chilies and jeera powder. No salt is to be added.
- Sprinkle the masalas over the bhindis and rub gently with your fingers. Keep aside for 5 minutes.
- Heat a non-stick pan, add the ghee and fry the marinated bhindis over low heat. Cook till bhindis are soft but crispy. Remove and keep aside.
- Heat a thick-bottomed pan. Add half the quantity of ghee and add the whole spices and allow to splutter.
- Mix in the onion paste and brown over low heat.
- Mix in the chopped onions and the ginger, garlic paste and continue to cook for a further two minutes over low heat.
- Add the keema. Mix well and continue to cook and fry for a further 3-4 minutes.
- Mix in the spices and tomatoes and the green chilies paste and continue to cook and fry over low heat.
- Add the remaining ghee a little at a time. Once the keema is dry add 1 cup of water, cover with a lid and cook on low fire till keema is tender and the water is used up.
- Now mix in the fried bhindis and continue to cook over low heat for 2 minutes, covering with a lid.
- As a final touch - you could add half tbsp of ghee and mix gently. This is optional.
- Serve garnished with onion circles and chopped coriander. Serve with lachcha paranthas.