Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mastering Beef

গরুর চাঁপ 

Tenderised Beef

Apologies for the crappy picture, and all the oil!

I've let myself down a little over the last few years in terms of home cooking beef and red meat. This is unforgivable really, given how beef is meant to be my favourite meat. I've tried to compensate with steak, but no matter how much peppercorn sauce I slather onto a slab of meat it does nothing to recreate the Bangladeshi experience. Until recently any red meat I cooked at home came out smelling just a little off-kilter. I experimented with various modifications to mom's recipes and took on board friends' suggestions - doing everything from adding extra spices to boiling, frying or searing the meat before cooking. In the end, it seems I've found a solution with this beef "chaap" (or tenderised beef) recipe, which I cooked slowly for a significantly longer time than my mom had recommended. 

Fakruddin, at midday before the Ramadan evening iftaar rush

Beef chaap is not an average, everyday dish. It has rich, complex flavours achieved by infusing the meat with an unusual number spices over the length of the cooking process. Chaap is thus reserved for special meals in our family during Ramadan in Dhaka, traditionally bought from Fakruddin’s. The late Fakruddin was originally a chef who ran the canteen at my cousin's old school Viqarunnisa, before branching out to serve food to the public. His sons operate a much bigger business now, built on the back of their father's culinary reputation. Fakruddin is famous for his biryani, but good biryani is easy to come by in Dhaka and it’s his more unique beef chaap that I remember most vividly. Bangladeshi food markets are always heaving during Ramadan, especially near iftaar time. Fakruddin’s is definitely no exception and so it’s always safest to get in early like in the photograph above. By 3 PM the place is packed, and getting to the food counter seems nigh on impossible amidst the crush of people.

Chaap is usually store-bought for special occasions and I've never really heard of anyone cooking it at home. Mom had to resort this as we had no access to Fakruddin while abroad - much like how and why I run this blog now. I don’t know where her original comes from, but I don't consider my version of it complete as some of the spice amounts below aren’t yet very well defined. I will therefore be coming back to this with edits and updates so please check back and for now, proceed with caution!


  • 1.00 kg of beef
  • 1.00 teaspoon of powdered chilli
  • 0.75 teaspoons of powdered turmeric
  • 1.50 teaspoons of powdered cumin
  • 0.75 teaspoons of powdered coriander
  • 1.50 tablespoons of oil
  • 1.50 tablespoons of ginger paste
  • 1.50 tablespoons of garlic paste
  • 2.00 tablespoons of yoghurt
  • Cloves
  • Dried bay leaves
  • Powdered mace
  • Powdered nutmeg
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2.00 onions
  • Fresh chilli, to taste
  • Salt, to taste

  • Cut the beef into rough, medium sized cubes and tenderise with a meat hammer, taking care to avoid splattering blood all over the kitchen

The beef just after the addition of yoghurt

  • Heat the two tablespoons of oil in pot, and add the meat, garlic and ginger pastes, chilli, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Stir the meat and spices together to ensure they are evenly mixed
  • Leave to cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring as necessary to prevent the dish from sticking to the pan 
  • Stir in the yoghurt and leave to cook for a further 50 minutes till the meat is soft and edible, lowering the heat slightly if necessary to prevent burning. Have a cup of hot water on hand to add to the dish in small amounts if it starts drying out too much

I used about half of these spices after shallow
frying them to season the meat

  • Shallow fry spices the cloves, bay leaves, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper, then set aside. Amounts are approximate here unfortunately - I used about half of what is seen in the photograph above 

Yes, I'm still very bad with onions

  • Once the spices are done fry the onions until they are golden before adding them to meat and cooking for 15 minutes
  • Lightly press the fried spices with a pestle and add to the meat, then leave to cook for another 20 minutes
  • Finally add the fresh chilli, and cook for a further 10 minutes or until desired. The longer the meat is cooked the softer and more unstructured it will become, and the end result is usually down to personal preference
  • Serve with rice, polao or flat breads

Additional Information:
Any red meat dish is great for leftovers in my opinion. Repeatedly heating and reheating this dish slowly will cause it to dry out and the meat to go all "crumbly", which in itself is a great way to serve the meat in my opinion, though its not for everyone. See the photograph below!

What to turn the leftovers into,
from my Instagram feed

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