Laal maas or Rajasthani fiery red mutton
Updated: Mar 5
Laal maas is the most iconic of Rajasthani dishes, but it is also the most abused dish in the state. Its popularity, served in every restaurant whether a 5-star hotel or a street side dhaba to airline trays and the influence of Punjabi chefs has completely ruined this dish. Let’s clear up a few myths about this dish.
It is the same as Junglee maans . False. Junglee maans is cooked with 3-5 ingredients, without yoghurt and the specific Mathania chillies that give Laal Maas its characteristic flavour.
It is bright red in colour. False. The characteristic colour is from the Mathania chillies which are a deep maroon red in colour. Punjabi-style cooking bastardizes this dish using tomato paste and Kashmiri chillies for the bright colour. It is super spicy. Partially correct. The Mathania chillies have a pungent, deep and, spicy flavour. The dish will light up your tongue and you will break out in a light sweat, but super spicy it is not. The dish is about the beautiful flavour of these chillies.
It was originally cooked with venison and wild boar. Urban legend makes a good story but no evidence for this. It was made by the hunting parties. False. It was made in the royal kitchens by the khansamah or chefs for the kings.
Mathania chillies are grown exclusively in Rajasthan, in a village by the same name. They are long-ish deeply coloured chillies that have a pungent heat with sweet-aromatic notes, they are not super spicy. This slow-cooked dish allows the spice from these chillies to bloom while cooking and the heat and colour penetrate the meat. I loved how this dish turned out. The deep flavours flood your palate and the spice builds with every bite. The slow-simmered meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and compliments the spices. The beautiful deep maroon colour is an invitation and plays on the red soil in Rajasthan. Admittedly the dish is rich with oil and ghee, but this dish is a winter dish to be enjoyed by the locals in the harsh, cold desert that is Rajasthan. Enjoy this dish with the ever-present jeera rice or naan bread. This dish is definitely staying on my home menu.
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1 cup mix of ghee and mustard oil
3-4 whole Mathania chillies, soaked in water for 1 hour
2 black cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
15 black peppercorns
5-8 whole cloves
1 flake mace
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (shah jeera)
2 1-inch inch cinnamon sticks
1 piece star anise
5 large onions, thinly sliced
2 1/2 lb mutton with bone, preferably chops with bones
5 tablespoons ginger paste
1/2 cup garlic paste
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
7-10 tablespoons Mathania chilli paste (see note below)
1/2 teaspoon Rajasthani garam masala
Salt, to taste
2 cups full-fat yoghurt
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup garlic, thinly sliced
Cilantro, minced to garnish
Ginger, julienned to garnish (optional)
Sliced onions, crisp fried, to garnish
Rajasthani garam masala (Commercial ready-made version ok);
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods
10 black peppercorns
1 flake mace
1 flake star anise
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
4-5 dried rose buds
To make the Rajasthani garam masala, dry roast all the whole spices, except rose buds, lightly on a frying pan till aromatic. Cool and grind to a fine powder. Store in an air-tight container.
To make the mathania chilli paste, soak 2 cups of dried chillies in hot water for 1 hour, submerging them well with a smaller plate. Drain the chillies and strain out the water, keeping the liquids. Grind the chillies in some of the soaking liquids to a smooth paste, the consistency should be very thick, so use just enough of the soaking liquids to get the paste spinning in the blender. Set aside. Extra paste, freeze it for next time.
Heat the ghee-mustard oil mix till very hot. Add the whole spices, soaked Mathania chillies, black cardamom, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cloves, mace, caraway seeds, cinnamon sticks and star anise and fry for 30 seconds.
Add the onions and fry on medium-hot heat till browned. Add the ginger paste and 3 tablespoons of the garlic paste and continue to fry on medium heat till the garlic and ginger no longer smell raw about 2 minutes.
Add the mutton and fry well on high heat till the meat is sealed and browned well. Fry on very hot heat or the mutton will give out water and stew instead of frying.
Turn down the heat to medium. Add the spices, coriander seeds, turmeric, Mathania chilli paste, Rajasthani garam masala, and salt and stir well for a minute to cook the spices. Make sure the heat is not too high, or it will burn the ground spices. Add the remaining garlic paste and the sliced garlic cook for 5-6 minutes on medium heat till the garlic no longer smells raw.
Add the yoghurt and cook for an additional 4 minutes to integrate the yoghurt into the curry, stir continuously or the yoghurt will split. Add the water and bring it to a boil. You can now close the pot and simmer for 2 hours, or cook in an Instapot on the meat setting for 15 minutes, or in a pressure cooked for 8 whistles. If you cook on the stove, stir the curry every so often so as not to let the spices burn and the curry stick to the bottom of the pan. Add 1/4 cup water if needed to maintain a thick curry.
When cooked the meat should fall off the bone soft. The curry should be thick, coating the meat heavily and the oils should be floating on the surface. Taste and adjust salt.
Serve garnished with cilantro and julienned ginger and either rice or bajra ki roti.