Beef Fry (Erachi Varattiyathu)

Photographs by Sebastian John

Yesterday I was flipping through my wife’s recipe book, and to my immense surprise I found my mom’s beef fry recipe written in Malayalam, my mother tongue. It turns out my mom had given my wife the recipe nearly four years back, and I had no clue about it. So I had to make it..after all, as a kid I used to bug mom to make the “dark beef curry”.

What I like about the recipe is its simplicity. It has minimal ingredients, and no water or stock is used for cooking. The beef cooks in its own juices and the onion. The dish known as Pothu Erachi Varattiyathu is a common dish among Kerala Christians, and well adapted by other communities. And the dish is not for the faint heart (at least the dish based on mom’s recipe) – it has three kinds of peppers – green chillies, red chili powder and ground black pepper, plus other spices.


1. Two pound beef cut into about 1 inch cubes
(I prefer chuck roast. The fat and connective tissue gives the dish a nice body.)

For marinate
1. One large onion finely chopped.
(If you are cooking in India, two onions. Onions in India are smaller)
2. 5-6 green chillies
3. 1 sprig curry leaf
4. one teaspoon red chili powder
5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
6. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
7. 1 teaspoon oil

For cooking and tempering
1. Two tablespoon tomato paste
2. Half onion chopped fine
3. 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
4. 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
5. 3 teaspoon oil

Marinate beef with onions, green chillies, curry leaves, red chili powder, turmeric powder and salt and keep in refrigerator overnight.

Bring the marinated beef to room temperature. Heat one teaspoon of oil in a saute pan and cook the tomato paste till oil separates. Add the beef and stir-fry it on high heat for two minutes. Lower the heat, cover and simmer till the beef is soft. (Please note : No water or stock is added for this dish). The beef should cook in its juices and the water from the onion. You have to occasionally stir the meat so it does not hold to the bottom of the pan and burn. The meat should be tender in about an hour and half of cooking time, and all liquids would have been absorbed by the meat (Images B to E below)

A. Marinated beef. B to E. Different stages in cooking. F. After tempering

For tempering, heat the remaining portion of oil and fry the onions till golden brown. Toss the beef into the fried onion, sprinkle ground black pepper and cumin, and cook for one minute.

Garnish and serve. The dish goes best with flatbreads (naan, roti, parathas etc.).

Pothu Erachi Varattiyathu and porotta (not to be confused with the northern Indian paratha) is a favorite dish of Keralites and is sold by most street vendors across the state.


22 thoughts on “Beef Fry (Erachi Varattiyathu)

  1. You remember that. Great!! We had lot together.

    “The dish goes best with flatbeards…” I read flatbreads

  2. Namaskaram!
    Thanks for the post, I’ll try this later. I also like the name and title of your blog. Looking forward to new recipes from you ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Really nice write-ups and damn! those pics make my mouth water! I’m gonna try out a few of these recipes soon.
    Good job and I’m looking forward to more recipes!

    1. Hi Ninette… tried posting to your blog.. but for some strange reason I just could not.. the robot thing would not recognize the letters i keyed in. I am also trying to claw back onto the blogging bandwagon.. fell off it in 2010 for many reasons. loved reading your Kale chips post. have to try it.

    1. The paratha is north Indian and usually made with wheat. There is plain paratha, and stuffed – with potatoes, vegetables, paneer (Indian cheese), and kheema (mince meat). The porotta, more popular in southern Indian especially Kerala and Tamil Nadu, is made with all-purpose flour (maida) and eggs. It is more strenuous to make the southern porotta, involving more steps. One quick way to identify the two parathas is the texture – the northern version is more coarser, and the stuffed ones are thick. The porotta has swirls/layers, is crispier, and have no fillings.

  4. I posted your blog on my FB page and my friend cooked your dish at 12:30 am in the morning! She said she didn’t grow up eating beef but liked it very much. She also pressure cooked her version. Questions … what kind of chilies are the green chilies and what makes of the red chili powder? Do you have to go to an Indian food store to get these ingredients?

  5. Hi…
    wow! at 12.30 am. I am honored. The Indian green chili (I think it is also used in Malaysian cooking) is a variety of Capsicum annuum. It is less hotter (by Scoville heat units) than jalapeno and habanero, but does have a nice kick. I buy these at Indian stores. Never seen them in regular grocery stores (I guess you live in the US). For visual identification the Indian green chili is smaller and thinner than the jalapeno.

    Red chili powder can be made from any of the dried peppers, but I traditionally buy from an Indian store. The packets would look some like this Paprika, cayenne powders (by Penzeys, McCormick, etc.) that is sold in general grocery stores can be used as substitutes. I always avoid using smoked paprika for Indian cooking.

  6. Ah! ๐Ÿ™‚ Inji! and a cooking blog by that name ๐Ÿ™‚

    Pothu irachi is not exactly ‘beef’, right? Pothu is male water buffalo meat right? What we get commonly in US is cow’s meat. I have seen buffalo meat only at specialty stores. Or I maybe wrong?

    1. You are right…Pothu Erachi in Kerala refers to buffalo meat. I am not sure if male buffaloes are the only one’s used for meat, because if my memory is right I have seen female buffaloes at the abattoir too. I have not seen Asian water buffalo meat in US stores. I think what is sold as buffalo meat is actually the American bison (bison bison). The American bison is a different animal from the Asian water buffalo.

  7. I was just searching for a site to cook this beef which was bought for the first time in my life to cook.The receipe worked out so good that we enjoyed this dish though we have not taken it before.Thanks for the receipe and also i dint marinate it overnight too.Just an 1hr or so in the fridge and it came out so delicious.

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