Monday, October 4, 2010

Make-ahead Beef in a Spicy Tomato Sauce (Chhoyala)

     I don't know if I've mentioned it, but my dear husband is from Nepal.  More specifically, he is from the Kathmandu valley and is a Newar.  According to my good friends at Wikipedia (they know everything, right?), the term Newar applies roughly to the descendants of citizens of Medieval Nepal (consisting of Kathmandu Valley as the capital and the ever changing territory with the farthest extent being Gandaki river to the west and the Koshi river to the east, Tibet to the north and Terai to the south).  They are united by their common language, which is Newari.  

     Anyway, this is a dish introduced to me by my sister-in-law during Thanksgiving one year.  Basically, it's beef in a spicy tomato sauce.  Yum.   Chhoyala (don't ask me how to pronounce this - my Nepali and Newari are terrible - even my husband can barely understand me, even when he knows what I'm trying to say) is a traditional party dish, typically made early in the day and served later.  One thing about the Newars, they love to party.  There is a festival and feast for everything you can imagine. Yes, feasts.  Newars are big on feasts, or big parties, with lots of food.  Much of the food is simple to prepare, yet very tasty -- my kind of food!  Chhoyala is more than likely to be a snack food or appetizer, but I like it as a main dish.

     It's a perfect make-ahead on Sunday afternoon when I'm in the mood to cook.  And little prep the night before, and voila, dinner ready for Monday night, when I'm dragging myself home from work and thegym and don't feel like cooking...but sure feel like eating:)  Although you can eat it right after it's finished, it tastes WAY better the next day after the flavors have a chance to meld and the tomatoes have time to break-down (tenderize) the meat.  

     In the Kathmandu valley, one would typically make Chhoyala with water buff.  Since I can't find water buff here (okay, I've not yet had buff, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't taste like chicken), I used beef stew meat, but you could use pork, lamb, chicken, buffalo, etc.  You would typically eat this with beaten rice (and have some rice wine), but since I rarely indulge in rice, I serve it with cauliflower rice or shredded cabbage.


  • Stew meat, 2 lbs (use any meat you have on hand - if you are using another type of meat, you'll want to cut it into cubes)
  • Turmeric powder, 2 tsp
  • Salt, 1/4 tsp (or to taste)
  • 4-5 large tomatoes (you can also use canned, but make sure you get the fire roasted tomatoes, preferably without salt) 
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 Tbs cayenne pepper, or to taste (alternatively, if you have jalapenos or other peppers, you could use those as your heat component)
  • 1 Tbs oil 
  • 1 tsp fenugreek (also known as methi seed) (optional)
  1. Roast tomatoes if using fresh.  I pop mine under the broiler of my toaster oven.  You could also put them on your stove if you have a gas range or throw them on the grill.  Roast until blistered, turning as necessary to ensure blistering on all sides.
  2. Coat meat with turmeric powder and salt.  You have two choices with the meat:  either boil it in a little water until cooked or brown until no longer pink (or to desired doneness).  Both taste really good.  I like them both equally well.  Once cooked, remove from heat and reserve.
  3. Once tomatoes are roasted, transfer to a food processor.  Add garlic, ginger, and cayenne pepper (or peppers).  Blend until mixed.
  4. If you are using the fenugreek, heat oil in a pan.  Add fenugreek and cook until blackened.  The dish tastes fine without the fenugreek - but if you have it - then use it.  I'll introduce you to other recipes that use fenugreek if you have an interest in trying it, but don't want to waste the money for a "one-time" spice.
  5. Add fenugreek (if using) and oil to the tomato mixture.  Mix again.  Taste, adjust seasonings as necessary (you may need a little bit of salt here).
  6. Once pureed, mix the tomato mixture with the beef.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight.  Tastes great cold or reheated.

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