Like the infamous Dhansak, the Salli Boti is another acclaimed Parsi dish. You will find it everywhere – be it a happy occasion or sad – because mutton is a staple in any Parsi’s diet. From a menu planning perspective, the Salli Boti is superbly versatile and is not only a great side accompaniment with a Dhandar or a Berry Pulao but also great served just by itself with salli (potato sticks) galore.
Recently, I have been getting a lot of requests for vegetarian Parsi food and while I try my best to wrack my brains for vegetarian alternatives, I frequently find myself at a loss as the idea of no meat in our food generally leaves us shivering in our boots. The other day someone requested that I make them a 7 course vegetarian and eggless Parsi menu. The whole experience left me so traumatised that I decided to meditate and calm down – by making some Salli Boti instead!
While Salli Boti is a fairly common find for those that stay in Mumbai and are blessed to be invited to dozens of Parsi functions every season, it is more of a specialty for those that stay overseas. This is NOT because the dish is hard to make. But, because of the severe dearth of the perfect Salli (potato sticks). Most Indian stores abroad stock the thick potato wafers but to really enjoy this dish, it must be had with the fine Salli which is only really found in the kirana stores of India.
In fact, so obsessed is my dad with Salli Boti and my mom with Salli per Eedu that my mom often takes back 3 – 4 Kilos of Salli back with her from India. It’s the one thing she won’t be generous about if you visit our home and you will only get a second serve of it if you ask. After all, she has to make it last for a year before either she or I visit each other again.
Now, I’ve heard a lot about how hard this dish is to get right so I was a bit wary about cooking it. After urgent consultations with the mothership in NZ though I decided to take the plunge. And, how wrong was I! This turned out to be the simplest dish I’ve ever made as all you have to do is dunk everything into one pot and twiddle your thumbs until it’s done.
Truly, making Sali Boti is as easy as 1-2-3. The only thing I’d strongly advise you to do however is to let the mutton slow cook. If you must pressure cook then ensure you take all the mutton stock and add it into the tomato gravy and allow for the gravy to evaporate once again. The mutton here can be easily replaced with chicken legs if you prefer poultry. And, I’m happy to share after much research that if you simply must make a vegetarian alternative of this dish you can add in broccoli or mushroom and they will lend the same meaty texture that makes Salli Boti the delicious dish it is.
- 800 gram boneless lamb or goat meat cut into pieces
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tbsp green chilli, garlic and cumin paste
- 0.5 cup yoghurt
- 4 tbsp oil
- 3 large onions chopped very finely
- 600 gm canned or fresh tomato
- 100 ml concentrated tomato puree or paste
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp garam masala powder
- 4 cloves
- 4 star anise
- 2 tbsp Kolah's sugar-cane vinegar. Can be replaced with malt vinegar. If you use any other type, you may need a bit more.
- 50 gram jaggery or raw sugar
- Salt to taste
For Garnish and Serving
- finely chopped coriander
- 150 gm fine salli (potato sticks)
- freshly made roti's
- Marinate the meat in salt, ginger garlic and green chilli paste as well as the yoghurt. Cover the bowl and let the meat marinate for atleast 2 - 3 hours. The longer you marinate the faster your meat will cook and the better it will taste so I recommend you take your time with this - I prefer to marinate this overnight if time permits.
- Now, in a earthern pot (if you have one) or a saucepan, heat the oil and add in the finely chopped onions. Fry the onions till they are translucent and completely soft.
- Add in all the spices and mix well for 2 - 3 minutes.
- Add in the tomatoes you pureed at home as well as the concentrated puree and mix well. Once you have a thick gravy, add in the mutton pieces, jaggery and salt. Give everything a good stir. Cover your pot so that the meat can start slow cooking on a low-medium flame.
- Check in on the meat every 10 - 15 minutes. Covering the pot may have made your gravy slightly watery so for the next 15 minutes, leave the pot slightly open so that water can evaporate.
- Once the masala has cooked a bit, it is time to adjust the flavour. If it is not spicy enough add in a little more garam masala. If it is too spicy, add in a little more jaggery - remember though that the vinegar is still to come in and that will usually balance everything out. If you can't point out what's missing, it's usually just a bit of salt.
- The whole process of the muttton cooking and the tomato gravy evaporating will take about 35 - 40 minutes. When your meat is completely tender, add in the vinegar and cook for a final 5 minutes. If you feel that the gravy has become too sour for your taste, just let the vinegar cook off.
- Add in some finely chopped coriander and give it a final stir. Serve hot with LOTS of salli and fresh roti's on the side.