Goat Dalcha


In the olden days when families were large and money was tight, Dalcha was the perfect recipe to stretch the dollar. A few bones, lentils and little bit of vegetable and you’ve got a lovely hearty stew that will feed many mouths for not very much money. Nowadays, Dalcha has grown a little bit in status and is always served with Biryani. It is probably as important as the bride and groom in a Tamil Muslim wedding. If there is no Dalcha, there is no wedding feast.

I grew up eating so many variations of this humble stew. While it’s lovely to eat, it isn’t one of my favourite things to cook. It does take a little bit of work. But when Mangy asked for Dalcha on the weekend, being the good wife that I am – I couldn’t say no.

So here’s my version:

(a) You’ll need (pressure cook until soft):

  • 1/2 cup toor dal
  • 1/2 cup mung dal
  • 1 carrot (peeled and cut into large pieces)
  • 3 small eggplants (cut into chunks)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • water for cooking

(b) You’ll need (pressure cook until soft):

  • 1/2 kg goat ribs (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • water

(c) You’ll need (for the masala paste):

  • 6 dried red chilies
  • 6 fresh green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black pepper corn
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 long cardamom
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 mace
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon channa dal
  • 6-8 cashew nuts
  • 1 inch piece ginger (peeled and chopped roughly)
  • 6 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped roughly)
  • 1 large onion (peeled and chopped roughly)
  • 2 tomatoes (chopped roughly)
  • 1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
  • pinch of salt
  • oil

(d) You’ll need (for finishing):

  • tamarind paste – to taste
  • red chili powder – to taste
  • salt – to taste
  • pinch of sugar
  • fresh coriander leaves (chopped)


Once you have your meat cooked, allow to cool slightly then skim off as much of the fat as you can from the surface. If you are well-organised, you could even pressure cook the meat the night before and allow to cool in the fridge. The fat will come right off the surface.

In a large pan, heat some oil and add dried red chilies and all your whole spices. Once fragrant, add channa dal and cashew nuts. Once golden, add green chilies, ginger and garlic. Then add onion and pinch of salt. Fry until onion is soft. Add tomatoes and cook until soft. Finally add coconut and cook until golden. Allow to cool before grinding into a smooth paste. (**Tip: You won’t need all of this paste, so whatever you have left, can be stored in the freezer for other gravies.)

Mix the cooked and the meat, add about half the masala to start with. You can always add more if needed. Add more water to thin out the Dalcha if needed. Bring to a boil. Add tamarind paste, sugar, red chili powder and salt. Check seasoning and adjust to taste accordingly. You want the Dalcha to be quite spicy and just a little sour, not overly so. Finish off with chopped coriander and serve with rice. Enjoy!


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