Mutton Dopiaza

Meat with onions (Photographs © Sebastian John

I am not even sure why I am calling this dish “Mutton Dopiaza”. I don’t know anything about the dish – its origin or what it really stands for. I am depending on the tidbits of information that I got after spending an hour on the internet.  From what I read “Do Pyaza” or “Dopiaza” dishes refers to those where large quantities of onions are used – in the curry and as a garnish. The word literally means “two onions” or “double onions”. According to legend (or rather shall I say Google), the dish was accidentally made by  Mullah Do Piaza, an adviser of the Mughal emporer Akbar, when he added in lot of onions.

Anyways this is my “Keralatised” version. I cooked it for the first time in 1998 when I was at a journalist friend’s house in Kerala, and I offered to cook him and his wife dinner. They had mutton in the refrigerator and obviously that was going to be the main dish. When I went into the pantry, I realized that there was not much to forage through. There were lot of onions and the general spices. And of course being in Kerala there was coconut too. So I conjured up a dish with whatever I could lay my hands on. The couple liked it and when they asked what was the dish.. I blurted “Mutton Dopiaza”, vaguely remembering that a dish of that name utilized lot of onions.

Cooked tender meat


1. One kilo  (two pounds) mutton

2. 3/4 kilo (pound and half) chopped onions

3. 4 to 5 green chillies

4. 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

5. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder

6. 1-2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder (it is milder than most Indian chilli powders)

7. 4-5 curry leaves

8. 1/2 cup of water

For tempering –

1. 1 finely onion

2. 1 teaspoon garam masala

3. 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

4. 1/2 teaspoon cumin

5. 4-5 curry leaves

6. 1/2 cup grated coconut

Trim fat off the meat and wash it. Add all the ingredients (1 through 8) and cook the meat on low to medium heat till it is tender. The onions will break down and form the sauce for the meat to cook in.

If there is excess sauce after the meat is cooked, drain it and simmer it till it reduces to a paste like consistency. Alternatively as we Keralites like to do, you can add pieces of yucca (cassava/tapioca) to the sauce as it cooks down. Cooked tender yucca is an excellent accompaniment to any meat dish.

For tempering heat oil in a saute pan and fry the curry leaves. Then add the diced onion and fry it till it turns golden brown. Lower the heat and the powdered spices (garam masala, cumin, black pepper) and stir fry till oil starts seperating. Add the meat, grated coconut and the thickened sauce, stir and cook for about five minutes till the meat has absorbed all the moisture.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve with rice, roti, or in this case with yucca.

(Yucca boiling in meat sauce)


Cooked down sauce
Fried onion and spices
Fresh grated coconut and meat
Mutton Dopiaza

Does size matter?

If there is one Indian ingredient I miss in the US, it is the Indian onion. As seen in the photo, an average Indian onion is about 2 inches in diameter. Compared to that an average US onion is 4 inches in diameter. So what the big deal? I find the Indian onions easier to hold, and chop, especially when trying to get a fine dice for frying. Individual skins of Indian onions are also thinner, and hence take less oil, and crisp up faster than US onions. Conversely a US onions generates lot of water, and breaks down better to give a good sauce

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