Ever since I returned from a trip to Bali, Indonesia, I have been making this addictive Indonesian Sambal Mutton Curry for quite some time now, which is a version of the Indonesian goat curry or kari kambing. In addition to tasting awesome Indonesian cuisine there, I also brought along jars of sambal of different brands and textures, as I had read a lot about this Asian condiment earlier. Out of culinary inquisitiveness, I needed to know how the authentic, fiery sambal tastes like. At that time, who knew that it would soon become one of my favourite kitchen ingredients!
As a hardcore non-vegetarian, I love mutton. Before I re-shifted to Mumbai, I can’t tell you how much I missed goat meat during my stay in Hong Kong, as it was available only in few places there. Winter, especially the Chinese New Year, was the time when I could see Yeung Yuk (goat meat in Chinese) or mutton in the wet markets in Hong Kong, if we were lucky enough. But I was never satisfied with the quality. In Indian mutton shops, especially the halal ones, you get young mutton which would absolutely melt in your mouth after cooking, even if you do not marinate it at all. A well-cooked mutton with the correct blend of spices is a pleasure to the tastebuds. I think, its soft, yet chewy and somewhat slippery texture makes it so deserving.
Indians, similar to the Indonesians, generally prefer to eat their meat cooked with spices. A fiery meat curry is just something we love to eat whether we are gloomy or happy, sick or fit. In fact, as a toddler, when I could not tolerate chilli in my food, mutton curry was the exception. I used to sit with a big glass of water (and a hankerchief!) and relished every morsel fed by my mother. So eating spicy food started with mutton curry itself and till today, I always prefer the fiery version of mutton curry. It is just my kind of food!
The tangy Sambal terasi is a common Indonesian style of sambal. Sambal terasi is slightly salty and fiery Indonesian chilli paste, fermented with shrimps and tomatoes. It is an excellent chilli-based condiment and you can even try it as a salad dressing for a fiery kick. Top it on raw mango slices and it just tastes great.
But I had never used sambal in my life, until on a weekend some guests came rather unexpectedly for lunch and I was running out of both green chillies as well as the quintessential red chilli powder. I didn’t have time to go to the market too, when suddenly I remembered that I had jars of sambal paste resting inside one of the cupboards of my kitchen. So that was it. I made this curry for them, who complimented by saying that they never had this kind of mutton before. After that, I cooked the same recipe on three different occasions and the response from my guests was overwhelming! Believe me, this is one of the best meat curries ever. Take my word and give this a try!
Indonesian Sambal Mutton Curry
- Mutton pieces medium-sized, with bones: 1 kg
- Readymade Sambal terasi paste: 2 tbsp
- Fresh lemongrass stalks pounded lightly: 2
- Vinegar: 2.5 tsp
- Garlic minced: 2 tbsp
- Curry leaves: 12
- Whole bay leaves: 2
- Cinnamon: 1-inch piece
- Green cardamoms: 4
- Purple onion chopped finely; medium-sized: 3
- Ginger paste: 1.5 tbsp
- Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
- Salt: 3 tsp divided
- Sugar: ¾ tsp or according to taste
- Coconut milk: 1.5 cup
- Sesame oil: 6 tbsp
- Warm water: 4 cups
- Marinate the mutton for 2 hours with lemongrass, vinegar, garlic and half the salt.
- Heat sesame oil till it reaches its smoking point. Add the curry leaves. After a few seconds, introduce the bay leaves, cinnamon and cardamoms. Wait for a few seconds and then add the onions and fry till transparent. Add the ginger paste and sauté for a minute. Add the rest of the salt.
- Pour-in the mutton, minus the marinade and lemongrass. Add the sambal terasi, turmeric powder and sugar and sauté till the contents are well-coated and almost dry. You can sprinkle water occasionally to prevent the contents from sticking at the edjes of the wok.
- Add the coconut milk and the sugar. Cook till the meat is half-done. Transfer this to a pressure cooker and add warm water. Stir the contents well and secure the lid.
- Simmer the gas and pressure-cook till 3 whistles. Switch off the gas. Remove the lid of the cooker after ½ hour. Stir the contents well once again. Adjust the seasoning and serve with steamed rice or roti canai.