Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

The winner by a landslide...

Aunty Santha's Keralan Lamb Curry! [crowd goes wild] Rather unsurprising when you think about the voting audience in this, the land of baby sheep-eaters, despite an attempted five votes from Damian Christie for the prostituttanesca (that's what puttanesca means folks).

First disclaimer: I think the only actually Keralan thing about this recipe, is that Aunty Santha is Keralan. Second disclaimer: It's a pretty basic recipe, but as with all curries, the key is not only in the ingredients but in the way you put it together, and how much you use. I bit my tongue when Che posted his travesty of an insta-Thai... I will describe here the technique required to make a gravy-based meat curry, a real one, like real Indians make for themselves. Real Indians can pretty much skip this post because they already know how to do it.

A note on the curry powder. Use only Baba's meat curry powder for this recipe, Aunty Santha's favourite brand which I think you can now even see in general supermarkets here. If not, it is easily found in Chinese and Indian supermarkets - green bag with picture of curry on it. Think Lim Chhour, Soung Yueen, Tofu Shop, Silver Bell, Mahadeos, Yogijis, Khyber Spice, or in Wellington, Yans, Moshims, A-Mart, and that Chinese one down the end of Newtown whose name I can't remember (possibly something like 'Asian supermarket). Baba's rules Malaysia.

Yes, it does say '1 bulb garlic', not '1 clove garlic'. And 4 tablespoons of curry powder, not 4 teaspoons.

Step 1: cutting stuff up.
Take a big pot, a frying pan, and a big chopping board. Finely chop the onions (you can food-process it for finer texture) separately from the garlic and ginger. Peel and finely chop the garlic and ginger. Chop the lamb into chunky curry pieces. We usually use leg-steak, but other cuts should be fine I suppose. A nominal pescetarian, I don't know a lot about meat-usage (sorry Russell). If it's a tougher or fattier cut, I suppose you simmer lower for longer.

Step 2: sear the meat. Self explanatory - in oil, very briefly, just to seal the pieces.

Step 3: prepare the flavour/gravy base. This is the most important part. Heat the oil/ghee, add finely chopped garlic, ginger and the whole spices (cardomom, cinnamon, cloves), fry for a few seconds (don't burn or brown) then add the onion. Fry on low-medium heat (with large amount of onion you don't want to have the heat so low as to have the onion go all wet and soupy, but not hot enough for it to start browning) for NOT LESS THAN ten minutes. It's all about the bolay bolay although I don't know what that means exactly. Possibly something to do with the stir-frying motion. What you are looking for is when the oil separates from the onion, which is different from when 'the onion looks oily'. It's so key to the whole enterprise, and so many people don't know about it. The onion will have lost a lot of its moisture, and be taking on a pasty consistency.

So, the oil is separating, right? This is when you add your four tablespoons of Baba's. Don't be scared. Quickly stir it in and fry on low heat for about 30 seconds - make sure it does not stick to the bottom and burn.

Step 4: enter the meat.
While still frying the curry powder, add the lamb and blend together. Fry a little more with the paste coating the meat, and the moisture from the meat juices lifting the dry spice-stickiness off the bottom of the pot, then add a cup of water.

Simmer on mediumish until done, adding more water as necessary, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. About three-quarters through, add chunky wedges of tomato and coconut cream/milk (Coconut optional, but who am I kidding, you 'kiwis' just looooove your coconut cream. If you do so, do not cover the pot or it will curdle. And don't overdo it).

Again, you want to simmer until the oil separates. It'll be floating on the top, looking all infused with red chilli.

Salt to taste (don't underdo it), then finish with a good fat squeeze of lemon juice.

You can also cook this with potato, either simmering with the lamb from the beginning, or adding them pre-boiled/steamed/microwaved whatever, about halfway through. In which case, alter proportions of lamb/gravy accordingly.

Eat with rice, preferably the next day.


1 kg lamb
2 medium-large onions
1 bulb garlic
2 generous inches ginger
4-8 cardomom pods
4-8 cloves
1 large stick cinammon or cassia

4 tablespoons Baba's curry powder
2 tomatoes
coconut cream/milk (optional)