Tender chunks of beef are slow-roasted with aromatic spices, coconut pieces (thenga kothu) and curry leaves to make this classic Kerala style beef fry.
My son who is super picky about several Indian foods (mostly because he doesn’t like the way curry sticks to his fingers) goes absolutely bonkers when beef ularthiyathu is on the menu. It is the stuff of legends, brought to you straight from the land of spices, Kerala.
Beef ularthiyathu or pan-roasted beef slow-cooked in a medley of aromatic spices, curry leaves and fried coconut slices is a classic Kerala recipe. Some people even refer to it as the “state dish”, and rightfully so.
Traditional Kerala beef fry recipe might take at least half a day to make, but home cooks like myself generally make use of a pressure cooker to par-cook the beef first. This meat is then mixed with onions, ginger, garlic, chilies, curry leaves and coconut slivers that have been sautéed in a generous amount of coconut oil. The beef is allowed to slowly roast on a low flame till it is dark and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The longer you cook the beef, the darker and tastier the beef fry turns out. A cast iron pan or an earthen pan are the best choices to achieve a dark crust on the meat, but any thick-bottomed pan will work in a pinch.
A generous sprinkling of homemade garam masala made with spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise, black pepper and cumin seals the deal. How much spice you add is really up to you. Some like it fiery hot with a ton of black pepper that literally makes your eyes and nose water (in a good way!). Of late, I tend to keep it slightly on the milder side because I really don’t want to push my luck with the kiddo and his whims!
When you have naadan beef fry on the menu, you really don’t need anything too elaborate on the side. It’s best paired with soft, flaky Malabar parathas or plain rice and pulissery (a mildly spiced buttermilk curry).
Here’s how to make Beef Ularthiyathu (also called Kerala style beef fry or Kerala beef roast; you may see these terms used interchangeably for this dish).
- Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
- Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
- Green cardamom - 1 pod
- Cloves - 2
- Star anise - a small piece
- Cinnamon - ½" piece
- Black peppercorns - 1 tbsp
- Beef - 1 lb, boneless and cut into small chunks
- Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp
- Red chili powder - 2 tsp
- Coriander powder - 1 tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Green chilies - 2, chopped
- Curry leaves - 2 sprigs, divided
- Coconut oil - 3 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
- Mustard seeds - a pinch
- Red onions - 2, thinly sliced
- Coconut slivers - 2 tbsp
- Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
- Homemade spice mix - 2 tsp
- White vinegar - 1 tsp
- Homemade garam masala: Take all spices in a small skillet and roast them on low heat till lightly aromatic. Do not use high heat or it will burn. Cool and grind slightly coarsely in a spice grinder or mortar-pestle.
- Par-cook the beef: Mix together beef with turmeric, chili, coriander and salt. Add roughly ¼ cup of sliced red onions, chopped green chilies, a few curry leaves and ¼ cup of water. Mix everything well and pressure cook the beef for 3-4 whistles until tender. (Usually you don't need to add a lot of water because the meat will let out enough water while cooking.)
- Beef ularthiyathu: While beef is cooking, heat the coconut oil in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and let them crackle.
- Add the rest of the curry leaves, coconut slivers and onions. Saute till onions are golden.
- Then add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell goes away.
- Add the cooked beef along with the cooking liquid to the pan. Cook on medium-high heat till all the liquid reduces, stirring often so as not to let the meat stick to the bottom of the pan.
- When almost all the gravy has reduced, stir in the homemade garam masala and vinegar. Check seasoning, then lower the flame and pan-roast the beef for 15 minutes or until the beef is fairly dry, dark and tender. Feel free to drizzle some more oil if needed.
- Scrape up all the browned bits of gravy from the bottom and sides of the pan and mix in with the meat. Keep beef ularthiyathu covered until serving time.
- Serve hot along with plain rice, parathas, appam, idiyappam, etc.
Enjoy this spicy, delicious beef fry with a traditional combo of rice and pulissery or Keralan breads like paratha, appam, etc.
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Have you tried beef ularthiyathu? Do give this recipe and try and let me know how you like it.
Here are similar recipes using mutton, chicken or seafood.
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I am sharing this over at Fiesta Friday.