This article is about how to cook the lamb curry, which my wife would die for. She tried to resist the temptation to keep the leftover for the next meal before finally submitting to my suggestion to share with her sister.
This lip-smacking curry is just delicious layered upon delicious. It is a hybridized curry that leans heavily on Indian origin and is perfumed with a unique blend of Malaysian curry powder. The intermingling of flavors immediately brightens up the curry once it is added to the lamb.
After slow stewing at barely simmer for 90 minutes, the tender meat is almost melting off the bone enrobed in the umami-rich gravy. This lamb curry will be a serious contender when you want to add some Asian flavor to your dinner rotation.
Let’s dive in right away by showing you how to prepare the Malaysian style lamb curry.
How to cook Malaysian style lamb curry
The Malaysian style lamb curry is very similar to the authentic Indian version except for the inclusion of the Malaysian curry powder, a unique blend of the local spices. The gravy is thick, and the flavor is concentrated.
1. Marinate the lamb
I prefer to use bone-in lamb because it imparts flavor to the curry. Ask your butcher to cut it into 1.5-inch cubes or larger since the meat will shrink during cooking. You need to adjust the lamb quantity from 1kg to 600g should you decide to use boneless lamb meat, and replace the water with chicken stock to intensify the flavor.
This recipe is very flexible, converting easily to chicken or beef curry by replacing the lamb for those who do not eat lamb.
Marinate is a crucial step to tenderize the lamb.
I add some yogurt to marinate the lamb for two reasons. First, it adds a delicious tangy flavor but, more importantly, tenderizes the lamb.
Yogurt tenderizes the meat by two actions. It contains friendly bacteria, which breaks down protein. It also contains lactic acid, which is mildly acidic and helps break down the meat by denaturing or unwinding the muscle’s long protein. Since yogurt is a weak acid and lamb is tougher than chicken, it will not be overly tenderized, even marinate overnight.
The marinate also comprises ginger, garlic chili powder, turmeric powder, and salt.
Massage the marinade into the lamb and let it rest for at least three hours or overnight.
You can also crush the garlic and ginger with the flat of your cleaver and finely mince them if you do not have the ginger garlic paste ready.
2. Temper the herbs and spices
I temper the spices and sear the lamb separately to prevent the spices from overburning.
- Heat some oil to just below the smoking point. Most Malaysian use peanut or palm oil to cook, but you can also use corn oil, coconut, or sunflower oil, which have a high smoking point.
- Add the dried spices (cardamom, bay leaves, curry leaves, cinnamon bark) to the oil to temper until it becomes aromatic.
- You may add cumin seeds should you want to include it in the recipe. I use the ground cumin and only add to the curry at a later stage.
- There are other versions of the lamb curry, which include fennel seeds. They should be tempered with other dried herbs if you are choosing that option.
- When the whole spices become aromatic, add the chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes until it becomes soft, slightly brown, and translucent.
- Remove it and use the same pan to brown the lamb.
3. Browning the lamb
Browning gives the lamb a richer, deeper, and more complex flavor through the Maillard reaction, which produces a range of flavored molecules responsible for the inviting flavor and color. Unfortunately, it does not happen while cooking the curry because it takes place at around 140°C to 165 °C (280°F to 330 °F). Therefore, browsing enhances the flavor of all stew dishes.
I prefer to brown the lamb separately to avoid the spices from overburning. A good nonstick pan is useful for browning with less oil if you do not object to using nonstick material.
After browning the meat, set it aside, remove the excess oil, and use the same pan for cooking the curry. Use some water or add the chopped tomatoes to deglaze the pan. These are treasures, which greatly enhance the flavor of the curry.
4. Simmer the lamb until tender and soft
Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan to deglaze the pan. Once the caramelized bits have loosened, add back the browned lamb.
The tomatoes will start to disintegrate and release more liquid. You need to add some water as it is too dry to simmer the lamb.
Meanwhile, add the remaining ground spices: chopped green chili, garam masala, chili powder, Malaysian curry powder, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Mix well and cover. Simmer over very low heat to keep it barely simmer.
It will take at least 90 minutes before the lamb becomes soft and tender. You may need to add more water from time to time so that it will not dry up. I prefer to add boiling water to keep the temperature constant. Since I want to keep my curry reasonably dry, I only add a minimum amount of water. The curry will cook down to a thick gravy with an intense flavor.
There is an option to have more gravy by adding more water and thicken it with potato wedges. The potatoes act like a sponge, absorbing all the gravy flavor, and are extremely tasty. You may add the potatoes about half an hour before removing the curry from the stove.
It is necessary to do a taste test before serving, as the amount of water in the curry may differ. You still can add some curry powder should you want a spicier flavor, or some water if it is too salty.
Serve the curry with some coriander leaves and red chili slices to garnish.
Five tips to make the best Malaysian lamb curry
1 Use Malaysian curry powder.
This curry powder is the star of the recipe. It comprises coriander seeds, dried chili, fennel seeds, turmeric, white pepper, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, star anise, nutmeg, bay leaf, and clove. You can immediately spot a few common spices for Malaysia cuisine- ground fennel, dried chili, star anise, and nutmeg. I can attest it tastes pretty distinct from the Indian curry once you include it into the recipe. The Malaysian curry powder is sold at Amazon and should be available at your nearby Asian grocery store.
Make your Malaysian curry powder
You can make this spicy mix at home easily with the recipe below if it is not sold in the store:
- 4 dried red chiles
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick (5cm length)
- 4 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 10 cloves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
All you need is to toast these spices over a frying pan until aromatic (except for the turmeric powder), then process with the spice grinder. Next, sieve the spice mix through a fine wire mesh strainer and keep it in an airtight container.
2. Use bone-in lamb
lamb curry is better cooked with bone-in shoulder and shanks since the bone and marrow impart flavor. You can substitute part of the water with chicken or beef stock to make up the flavor of bones if you are using boneless lamb.
3 Marinate the lamb with yogurt
lamb is relatively tougher, and therefore should be marinated to make it soft and tender. The easiest way is to use a slightly acidic marinade, and yogurt is my preferred choice. It helps to break down the protein and tenderizes the lamb, and imparts extra flavor.
Alternatively, a small amount of the store-bought tenderizer will do the trick. Most of these tenderizers are of natural origin, containing enzymes from pineapple (bromelain) or papaya (papase).
3. Deglaze the pan
We all know that the caramelized bits that stick on the pan after browning are full of flavor. However, there are times it gets burn and has to be discarded,
You need to strike a balance of not burning it while still hot enough to brown the meat. I find that using a nonstick pan is more manageable, although you still have to pay attention to the stove’s heat at all times.
4. Use generous amounts of spices
The flavor of the curry relies on the combination of the spices. The amount should be generous, resulting in an explosive flavor attacking the palates. When the recipe asks for a teaspoon, scoop a full teaspoon with confidence. I hardly think of any incidence that the curry is over-spiced.
5. Simmer low and slow on the stove
lamb is relatively tough compared to poultry, which takes a longer time to cook until tender. The trick is to cook it over a long period at barely simmering temperature.
The difference between lamb and mutton
Lamb is the meat from young sheep below one year, and mutton is the meat from the fully grown sheep.
However, the word mutton is used interchangeably in South East Asia because the locals often do not eat sheep. So when we ask for mutton in the butcher’s shop, it is likely given a piece of goat meat. Fortunately, this recipe is suitable for both, and no adjustment is required.
There are a few popular recipes related to curry and lamb on this blog. Don’t let these lip-smacking recipes slip through your palate.
Easy chicken curry – The Malaysian style chicken curry prepared with the Malaysian curry powder. It is a quick and easy recipe.
Massaman Curry – A Southern Thailand curry, which is less spicy. It was voted as the world’s top ten most delicious food by CNN Travel in 2011.
Chinese style lamb cutlets – A homegrown recipe by the Malaysian Chinese. It is prepared with mainly Chinese seasoning but is also with Worcestershire sauce, a hybridized flavor that is unique.
- 1kg lamb (with bone, 1.5-inch cube chunks)
- 4 tbsp yogurt
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
Other ingredients (B)
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 6 cardamom
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 stalk curry leaves
- 2 cinnamon barks, about 2 inches each
- 300g onion (two medium, chop or blend into a paste)
- 300g tomato (two medium, chop or blend into a paste)
- 2 green chilies, chopped
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp Malaysian curry powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 cup of water
- Coriander leaves and cuts red chili to garnish
- Marinate the lamb with (A) overnight or at least half of the day.
- Heat some oil to just below the smoking point. Add the dried spices (cardamom, bay leaves, curry leaves, cinnamon bark) to the oil to temper until it becomes aromatic.
- Add the chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes until it becomes soft, slightly brown, and translucent. Set aside.
- Using the same pan, brown the lamb with some oil. Be careful not to burn the caramelized bit sticking to the pan.
- Remove the lamb. Add the chopped tomatoes to deglaze the pan. Once the caramelized bits have loosened, add back the browned lamb.
- Add the remaining items in (C). Simmer over very low heat for 90 minutes.
- Garnish with some coriander leaves and red chili slices.
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Rani Garam Masala Indian 11 Spice Blend 3oz (85g) Salt Free ~ All Natural | Vegan | Gluten Free Ingredients | NON-GMO
GreenLife CW002044-002 Healthy Nonstick Dishwasher Oven Safe Sta Soft Grip Diamond Reinforced 8" Ceramic Non-Stick Open Frypan, 8-Inch, Black
Asian Kitchen Ginger-Garlic Cooking Paste 26.5oz (750g) ~ Vegan | Glass Jar | Gluten Free | NON-GMO | No Colors | Indian Origin
NT# NT# Baba's Packet Curry Powder - Meat 125g -This powder is use for rich curry taste or marinades for chicken and meats
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1059Total Fat: 71gSaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 38gCholesterol: 269mgSodium: 1964mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 7gSugar: 9gProtein: 75g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 11/25/2020