Bohri Lamb Kaari - Gujarati Muslim Lab Curry

Bohri Lamb Curry
Bohri Lamb Curry. Image © Joseph Gough/ Dreamstime.com
  • 110 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 90 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 people
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The Bohris are a Muslim community in India and also commonly known as Gujarati Muslims, Memon or Bohras. They are largely a business community living in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Boris speak Gujarati and Urdu. Bohri food is influenced not just by their home region of Gujarat but also by Mughal and Middle Eastern food. In Bohri tradition, food is very important and therefore plays a major part in any occasion. Hands are washed before and after, and if tradition is being followed, food is served on a communal platter and eaten together using only the right hand.

Bohri Kaari (or curry, since ​kaari is just another version of the word ‘curry’) is a traditional and very popular Bohri dish. While not well known in restaurants, it is commonly prepared in Bohri homes on special occasions. Bohri Kaari is made with a pre-prepared curry powder that can quite easily be found in small family-owned food stores in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Each store will have its version of the recipe with one or two ingredients being more prominent in their recipe than they are in another store’s recipe. Ladies of a Bohri household will either make their ​kaari powder or always buy it from their favorite store! 

This recipe includes the ingredients and process for making your Bohri Kaari spice mix from scratch. After you have tried it this way, feel free to ‘play around’ with the spice mix (masala) recipe and alter it to suit your taste... more or less chilies, more or less turmeric, more peanuts, less cashew... whatever you like! Serve Bohri Kaari with plain boiled Basmati rice or with flaky Parathas for a delicious, very special meal.

What You'll Need

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 sticks cinnamon (3” long each)
  • 6 cloves
  • 7 to 8 black peppercorns
  • 15 to 20 curry leaves
  • 1 large onion (or 2 medium, chopped finely)
  • 2 to 3 large potatoes (cut into 2” cubes)
  • 1 ball tamarind pulp (walnut or golf ball sized)
  • 1 kilogram lamb (cut into 2” chunks; I use 80% pieces without bones and 20% pieces with meat on the bone, for extra flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Optional: 2 green chilies (slit)
  • 1 can/400 milliliters coconut milk
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves (finely chopped)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons mint (fresh, finely chopped)
  • Garnish: fresh red chilies sliced
  • For the Kaari Powder:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons peanuts (raw, skins removed)
  • 12 almonds
  • 10 cashews
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chana daal
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 5 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 10 red chilies (dried; you can use a combination of the not-so-hot Kashmiri chili and the hotter variety of dried red chili if you want to tone down the heat)
  • 7 teaspoons desiccated coconut

How to Make It

  1. First, let’s make the spice powder mixture/ masala. Put a flat griddle onto the stove to heat at medium. I use a cast iron one to roast my spices. When the griddle/ pan is hot, add the peanuts, almonds, cashews, chana daal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilies and desiccated coconut. Use a spoon to stir frequently and dry roast all the ingredients together until they begin to turn very slightly darker and aromatic. This is when you remove them onto a plate and spread them out to cool. 
  1. When they have cooled, use a food processor or clean, dry coffee grinder (I have one just to make spice powders) to grind the roasted ingredients into a fine powder. Keep aside.
  2. Now soak the tamarind pulp in about 1/3 cup of hot water and let sit for a while.
  3. Take a deep pot (preferably a heavy-bottomed one) and set it up to heat on medium heat. When hot, add the vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil. When the oil is hot, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and curry leaves and sauté for 30 seconds. They will turn darker and aromatic. Now add the chopped onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes stirring often.
  4. Add the potatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Next, add the meat pieces and stir fry until browned. Now remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon and keep aside (potatoes cook faster than the meat and removing them helps prevent them from getting overcooked).
  6. Add 500 ml of hot water to the pot and cover. Simmer the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  7. Open the cover and add the potatoes back to the pot and add the kaari masala powder you made earlier and the turmeric powder. Also, add the tamarind pulp, strained through a sieve, to the pot. Stir to mix everything thoroughly. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Open the pot again and add the coconut milk and stir through. Cook for another 15 minutes then turn off the heat. 
  9. Just after you turn off the heat, open the lid, add the chopped coriander and mint leaves and sprinkle the garam masala powder over the pot. Stir and cover till ready to serve. You can also garnish with sliced red chilies.
  10. Serve hot with plain boiled Basmati rice or with freshly made, flaky Parathas.