Malaysian Mutton Curry (Gulai Kambing)

Photo by awhiffoflemongrass/flickr

Serves 6.


750 g/1 1/2 lb mutton
4 tablespoons desiccated coconut
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup tamarind liquid
2 large onions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon each ground cumin and turmeric
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, fennel,
nutmeg and black pepper
1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves and cardamom
4 candle nuts or macadamia nuts
4-8 dried large red chillies or to taste
1 stalk lemon grass
or 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon rind
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
300 ml/10 fl oz/11/4 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Cut mutton into small cubes. Brown the coconut in a dry frying pan, stirring constantly over medium-low heat for 4 or 5 minutes or until it is a rich golden brown colour. Turn onto a plate and set aside. Pour 1/2 cup very hot water over a walnut-sized piece of dried tamarind pulp and leave for 5 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind in the water to dissolve. Strain.

In the container of an electric blender put the tamarind liquid and onions and blend to a smooth, thick liquid. Add garlic and ginger and blend again. Add the spices, candle nuts, dried chillies and, last of all, the toasted coconut. Blend until smooth and well combined. If lemon rind is being used it can be blended too, but if lemon grass is available add it later on.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the blended mixture for 5 minutes, stirring frequently at the beginning and constantly at the end. Add meat and fry, stirring well so that each piece is coated with spices. Add tomato and fry for a further 4 minutes. Add coconut milk, salt and lemon grass and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, until meat is tender, stirring now and then and adding extra water if necessary. This may take from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Serve with white rice.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)