Slow-Cooked Lamb with Fried Onions (Bhutuwa Massu)

Serves     6


This recipe for lamb bhutuwa uses an unusual technique. The meat is seared over high heat, then left to finish cooking very slowly with no added water until tender. This cooking method renders the flavor highly concentrated. I must admit I was dubious of this method, but it turned out beautifully. When the meat cooks with the lid on the pan, it steams a little, thereby creating some liquid in the pan to keep things moist.

2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2- to 2 ½” cubes
2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. salt
2” piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (about ¼ cup)
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 2 tbsp.)
2 jalapeno chiles, coarsely chopped, remove seeds for less heat
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 red onion, cut in half and sliced


Begin by seasoning the meat with turmeric and salt and let stand for 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Take the garlic, ginger, and chile that you’ve already chopped and put them in a mini food processor, or you can also use a mortar and pestle. Process/pound the ingredients further until you have a paste and then add to the meat, along with ¼ cup oil, coriander, and cumin. Mix well and let the meat marinate for 2 – 4 hours.

Heat the remaining oil in a Dutch oven or a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the lamb cubes and brown on all sides, for a total of 8 – 10 minutes. Turn the heat as low as possible and cover with a lid. Continue cooking and stir occasionally until the meat has reached the desired tenderness, about 35 more minutes. When the meat is tender, remove the lid from the pan and continue to sauté the meat, stirring as needed, in order to let any remaining liquid evaporate from the meat, leaving only the oil left in the pan. Remove the meat at this point to a platter and keep warm.

Using the same pan, add the sliced red onions to the remaining oil. If necessary, you can add more oil. Cook the onions until they soften and brown, but still retain some texture, 5 – 10 minutes. Add a splash of water at the very end to release all the delicious residue from the pan into the onions.

Top the meat with the fried onions, and serve with Tomato Achar and basmati rice.

Adapted from: Return to the Rivers: Recipes and Memories of the Himalayan River Valleys, by Vikas Khanna.

Photo credit: Linda McElroy


Notes and Instructions