Updated: May 24, 2022
Laal maas is the most iconic of Rajasthani dishes, but it is also the most abused dish in the state. It’s popularity, served in every restaurant whether a 5 star hotel or a street side dhabba 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, with out yogurt and the specific Mathania chilies that give Laal Maas its characteristic flavor.
It is bright red in color. False. The characteristic color is from the Mathania chilies that are a deep maroon red in color. Punjabi style cooking bastardizes this dish using tomato paste and Kashmiri chilies for the bright color. It is super spicy. Partially correct. The Mathania chilies have a pungent, deep and, spicy flavor. 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 flavor of these chilies.
It was originally cooked with venison and wild boar. Urban legend that 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 khansamas or chefs for the kings.
Mathania chilies are grown exclusively in Rajasthan, in a village by the same name. They are long-ish deeply colored chilies that have a pungent heat with sweet-aromatic notes, they are not super spicy. This slow-cooked dish allows the spice from these chilies to bloom while cooking and the heat and color penetrate the meat. I loved how this dish turned out. The deep flavors 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 color 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 on 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 chilies, 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, preferable 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 chili paste (see note below)
1/2 teaspoon Rajasthani garam masala
Salt, to taste
2 cups full-fat yogurt
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup garlic, thinly sliced
Cilantro, minced to garnish
Gingar, 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 chili paste, soak 2 cups dried chilies in hot water for 1 hour, submerging them well with a smaller plate. Drain the chilies and strain out the water, keeping the liquids. Grind the chilies 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 chilies, 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 chili 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 yogurt and cook for an additional 4 minutes to integrate the yogurt into the curry, stir continuously or the yogurt will split. Add the water and bring to a boil. You can now close the pot and simmer for 2 hours, or cook in an Instapot on the meat setting + 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 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 be 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.