Beef and Onion Stew (Beef Bhoona)

Serves     4


1 pound stewing beef
4 tablespoons butter, or ¼ cup ghee (clarified butter), or 2 tablespoons each mustard oil and vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Bengali Five-Spice Mixture 
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 bay leaves
1 2”piece cinnamon
1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
1 tablespoon minced ginger or ginger mashed to a paste
1½ to 2 cups thinly sliced onion
4 green chiles, sliced into ¼” thick rings
1 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
2 limes cut into wedges


Cut the meat into ½”cubes. In a wide, heavy pot heat the butter, ghee or oils over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes, browning on all sides and removing from pan when done. Add the Bengali Five-Spice mixture, there should be enough oil left in the pan, and cook for about 30 seconds, or until the mustard seeds have popped. Add the turmeric, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the sliced onions, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until well softened, about 10 minutes.

Next, add the meat back into the pan, add the water, lime juice, salt and sugar. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium/low, cover and simmer until a fork pierces the meat easily, 1½ to 2 hours. Add water as needed to prevent sticking to the pot. (Can be made one day ahead).

Stir in half the coriander leaves and transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the remaining coriander leaves. Serve with lime wedges, a squeeze of lime juice brings forward the flavor of the beef.


Notes and Instructions

Bhoona is a method of slow cooking spices and meat until tender. It is very well suited to beef. Use stewing beef and look for meat with some marbling, for that will give the best flavor and the most tender texture. Accompany with Khichri, a kind of easy pilaf of rice and dal. In a traditional Bangla-style meal, if you served plain rice with the beef bhoona, you would also serve a simple dal, as well as a green vegetable.

Source: Mangoes and Curry Leaves