Kasha Mangsho

Background Information: This is a long and complicated traditional Bengali (West Bengal is a northeastern Indian state) recipe that my father makes at home, and that he learned by watching his mother (my grandmother) make it at home as he was growing up. In Bengali, kashano means “to cook slowly on a low flame”. While mangsho directly translates to “meat”, it is generally used, in everyday vernacular, to refer to goat-meat or mutton. The dish is usually eaten with luchi, a deep-fried flatbread made of wheat flour. The combination of luchi and kasha mangsho is usually saved for weekend lunches or special occassions. My father moved to Singapore from India in his 20s, and has started making this dish quite recently – in the last 5 or so years.

Recipe: “So basically, kasha mangsho is a traditional Bengali dish, and what happens is that there is a thick gravy, which is what kasha mangsho means. The original name comes from the slow cooking – which in Bengali is called kashano, so basically slowly cooking the spices. So the ingredient is, mangsho of course… lamb, or goat meat. And this will be with bone – not without bone. That’s the speciality. Let’s say 1kg of mutton with bone, and we’ll take about 4 medium size potatoes cut into cubes… yeah medium size potatoes 4 or 5, cut into cubes, or halves. Uh…then, onion… probably about… 1kg will be about 2 medium size, not too small, medium size onions… Uh, chopped… Then… little bit of ginger and garlic paste… Probably, I would use 1 1/2 tablespoon of garlic and 1 tablespoon of ginger. And then for spices I use whole garam masala. So basically cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, and uh, cloves. These are whole garam masala. And apart from that spices are… turmeric powder, red chilli powder, uh… little bit of cumin powder and coriander powder. So these are the only four spices that go in. Generally, if you are cooking with lamb or mutton, and especially goat meat, which is mostly used in India, it is always preferable to boil it. I mean, basically boil it using a pressure cooker kind of thing. Otherwise it takes a very long time to cook. So while we use the pressure cooker to boil it, you can put the whole garam masala. So what happens is that because it is cooked on a pressure cooker with the whole garam masala, the flavour somehow gets infused. And later for making gravy we use the same water, the boiled water or whatever… the stock, or whatever you call it. Once that is done, take a pan and heat some oil. Traditionally Bengali cooking uses mustard oil, but you can also just use normal oil. Fry the onions… uh, the chopped onions, and after frying for a minute or two minutes at the most I use the ginger garlic paste, and I add a little bit of salt because when you add salt to onions, it always releases the… you know, the moisture from the onion, so it doesn’t become dry, its easier to cook. And then while that’s happening, on the side I am preparing the gravy. So I’ll probably take about 3 tablespoons of yoghurt. Plain yoghurt, completely. And then I’ll add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon of kashmiri red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of the coriander powder, and half a teaspoon, or even less, of cumin powder. Because cumin has a very strong smell. So you add this to the yoghurt, with a little bit of water, you can mix it very well into a thick paste. So once the onion and ginger-garlic has been fried for maybe 3-4 minutes, add this paste, fry for another just few minutes, and you’ll see the oil separating from it. Then you put the boiled mutton, the potatoes, and then just on a high heat you stir fry for a few minutes. And then what I do is to cook it on a slow flame and cover the pan, and every ten minutes I just stir. I leave it for 45 minutes or so. Kasha mangsho is supposed to be dry, but you still don’t want it to be too dry, and you don’t want the masala to burn, so once you take the cover off you can add a little bit of the stock from before, to make a little more gravy. And add sugar and salt as per taste.”

Thoughts: Food traditions are an important part of Indian, or Bengali culture. My father learned it from watching it being made in his home, and he brought the recipe, and perhaps the memories associated with the food, to Singapore when he moved. Similarly, I have grown up eating his iteration of the dish at home in Singapore, and I have tried making this and other similar recipes at college in Los Angeles. It is also interesting to consider who is involved in these traditions. In my house, my father primarily did the cooking, as he enjoyed it. This was surprising to many, because in most households, the women were used to cooking for the family.