Most Indian lamb curries are sweet, sour or spicy, but this delectable Parsi dish is all three.
For your sake, I really hope that you get to attend a Parsi wedding – ideally in Mumbai, India – at least once in your life. Especially, if you love food the way I do.
Because it’s on this rare festive occasion that you will have a chance to eat Salli Boti – a uniquely Parsi dish of tender lamb chunks slow-cooked in a sweet, sour and spicy tomato gravy, topped with salty, fried, potato sticks.
Salli Boti stands apart from other Indian mutton curries because of its unique flavour profile of tikhu-khatu-mithu also known as spicy-sour-sweet. Gujarati curries are sweet, North Indian curries are spicy, and Goan curries are sour, but rarely are Indian stews, all three at the same time. Unless, they are of Parsi origin where their flavour combination features in all our favourite dishes.
Getting an invite to a Parsi wedding is quite like winning Lotto though. There are just over 130,000 Parsis in the world and what’s the probability you’ll know one well enough to be invited to their wedding? And the ones who get married on this side of the equator tend to not have the traditional Parsi wedding feast where Salli Boti often features.
So, while you prepare to manifest said wedding invite, I’ll be kind and share my family recipe for Salli Boti with you.
- 1kg boneless lamb or goat meat cut into pieces**
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- 4 tbsp oil
- 3 large onions chopped very finely
- 600 gm canned or fresh tomato
- 100 ml concentrated tomato puree or paste
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp garam masala powder
- 4 cloves
- 4 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp dark malt vinegar. If you use any other type, you may need a bit more.
- 50 gm jaggery*
- Salt to taste
- Finely chopped coriander
- 150 gm salli* or crushed salt and vinegar chips
Marinate the meat in the salt, ginger, garlic paste and yoghurt. Cover the bowl and let the meat marinate for at least 2 – 3 hours. The longer you marinate, the faster your meat will cook and the better it will taste, so I recommend you take your time with this – I prefer to marinate this overnight if time permits.
In a saucepan, heat the oil and add the finely chopped onions. Fry the onions until completely brown – not just soft, but completely brown. It will take longer than you expect.
Add the whole spices and mix well for 2 – 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and the concentrated puree and mix well. Also, add in the powdered spices and season with salt. Once you have a thick gravy, add the mutton pieces, jaggery and salt. Give everything a good stir.
Empty the entire mixture into a slow cooker. Cook on medium for 4-6 hours until the meat is fall-apart tender. Or, if you’re cooking this on the stove, cover your pot so that the meat can start slow cooking on a low-medium flame. Check on the meat every 10 – 15 minutes until completely tender (about 1-2 hours).
When the meat is ready, open your pan. Covering the pot may have made your gravy slightly watery. If that’s the case, empty it back into the saucepan and for the next 15 minutes, leave the pot slightly open so that water can evaporate.
Now, add the vinegar and some more salt. Cook another couple of minutes.
You may need to adjust the flavour. If it is not spicy enough, add in a little more garam masala. If it is too spicy, add in a little more jaggery. If you feel that the gravy has become too sour for your taste, just let the vinegar cook off. If you can’t pinpoint what’s missing, it’s usually just a bit of salt.
Add some finely chopped coriander and give it a final stir.
Serve hot with lots of salli or crushed salt and vinegar chips, preferably with some fresh rotis on the side.
*Jaggery – unrefined brown sugar – and salli will both be available at your Indian shop. The latter may be hard to find and hence the salt and vinegar chips are a good substitute.
**Salli Boti tastes best with lamb. However, you can replace with chicken and, if you’d like a vegetarian version, I recommend a combination of broccoli and tofu. You will need to adjust the cooking times accordingly.