Straight from Kerala’s toddy shops: Beef fry

The alcohol ban in Kerala, thankfully, doesn’t impact toddy shops. Time to celebrate with an iconic ‘kallu-shapu’ dish.

Written by Maria Jose Martin | New Delhi | Updated: January 2, 2016 4:35 pm
Kerala Shappu-style beef fry. (Photo: Maria Jose Martin) Kerala Shappu-style beef fry. (Photo: Maria Jose Martin)

Boiled yam; kappa and meen curry (mashed tapioca and fish curry); fried mussels, crab curry and, of course, beef fry. The grub served in Kerala’s ‘kallu shaaps’ or toddy shops is a sub-cuisine in itself, and a fitting accompaniment to the heady pleasures delivered by toddy. While the Supreme Court has recently upheld the Kerala government’s decision to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in bars across the State, it has left toddy shops alone. And, that means kallu-shaap cuisine will continue to delight both wizened regulars and the culinarily-curious.

(Also read: An alluring alternative to the X’Mas Fruit Cake: Orange Almond And Yogurt Loaf)

I acquired this recipe for the kallu-shappu-style beef fry featured below from my mother’s assistant, Sarasa-chechy. Her husband is a cook in a kallu shappu, or toddy shop in Kerala. Though Sarasa-chechy refuses to admit that her husband has had an influence on her cooking style, I believe this beef fry has ‘shappu’ style written all over it.

Serves: 4-5

½ kg beef, cleaned & cut into small-medium size cubes

For marination
1 cup small onion, crushed
1½ tbsp ginger & garlic, crushed
1 – 1½ tbsp crushed red chilli
1½ – 2 tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp pepper powder
1- 1½ tsp garam masala
¾- 1 cup thengakothu (bite-size coconut pieces)
2 tsp vinegar

For tempering
Coconut oil
Curry leaves

*Marinate the cleaned beef pieces with the ingredients listed under marination. Keep it aside for 15-20 mins. Add 2 tbsp of water to this and pressure cook till the beef is done(the cooking time of beef depends on the type of beef used). Keep the cooker closed for 20-25 mins. Open the cooker and if there is any excess water in the beef, cook till the water is dried completely.

*Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add tons of curry leaves. Fry it for few seconds. Add the cooked beef. Give it a good stir. Cook on low flame till the beef becomes black in colour. If the beef appears to dry in between, add a little oil and continue cooking. It will take around 10-15 mins. Don’t forget to give a stir in between. That’s all …the shappu beef fry is ready!

I saw Sarasa-chechy using coconut oil generously and I believe that’s the secret behind the dish’s lovely dark colour. Also, try to use crushed red chilli instead of chilli powder, as the former imparts a different flavour to the dish. Use small onions (shallots) and please don’t substitute it with onions, as it will affect the taste. Dont forget to use coconut oil for this recipe — it’s a must!

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