Chunky Mutton Curry

Gulai Bagar

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • For



Appears in

Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery

By Sri Owen

Published 1994

  • About

Not all Sumatran-style gulai can be called curries, but this is very much like one because it uses almost all the curry spices: cloves, cumin, cardamom, coriander seeds. This is also one dish that I prefer served in the original way, on top of a mountain of white rice, or in a large earthenware bowl with the gleaming rice on the side in a woven bamboo tray or basket, lined with banana leaves. It is the appropriate food for a family gathering or selamatan, as it was served during my grandmother’s time, for instance on the day one of my boy-cousins was circumcised. She would have made this with several whole young goats, especially slaughtered for the occasion. Here in London I replace the goat meat with mutton, if I can get good mutton; otherwise a shoulder or a leg of lamb will do very well. Better still, if you don’t want the trouble of cutting the shoulder or leg meat into large chunks, buy some chump chops or mutton chops.


  • 3 kg/ lb shoulder or leg of lamb, or chump or mutton chops
  • 2 tbsp groundnut or coconut oil
  • 570 ml/1 pint/ cups thin coconut milk
  • 570 ml/1 pint/ cups thick coconut milk
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, cut across into 3
  • 10 small round white aubergines/eggplants or 2 large purple ones

To be Roasted First

  • 6–8 tbsp freshly grated or desiccated coconut
  • 3 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 5 candlenuts or macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

For the Paste

  • 8 shallots or 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4–8 large red chillies, de-seeded and chopped
  • 2 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • A large pinch of grated or ground nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp thick coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp tamarind water


Cut the shoulder or leg of lamb into large chunks still on the bone. If using chops, just trim off and discard some of the fat.

If you are using the small round aubergines/eggplants, cut them in halves. The large purple ones need to be cut into several thick round slices.

Put all the ingredients to be roasted into a wok or a thick-bottomed frying pan on a low heat. Stir almost all the time with a wooden spoon until the coconut is golden brown. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a bowl to get cold.

Put all the ingredients for the paste into a blender or food processor. Add to it all the ingredients from the bowl. Process them until you get a smooth paste. You may need to do this in two batches. Transfer all the paste to a large saucepan and simmer, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoonfuls of groundnut or coconut oil, and keep on stirring for another 2 minutes. Now add the kaffir lime leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamoms, lemon grass and the chunks of meat, and stir so that all the chunks are well coated with the paste. Add the thin coconut milk, lower the heat a little and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Now add the thick coconut milk, and bring almost to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Add the aubergines/eggplants, and continue to cook the gulai for 15–20 minutes longer. Adjust the seasoning.

To serve, take out the chunks of meat and cut them into largish pieces. Arrange the meat on a large flame- and ovenproof dish, and the aubergines/eggplants on top of the meat. Extract from the sauce all the unwanted solids and discard them: cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon and leaves. Pour away the excess oil, which is floating on the top of the sauce, and pour the sauce over the meat. Keep the dish hot in the oven (at 100°C/210°F/Gas Mark ¼) until you are ready to serve the gulai bagar piping hot with plenty of boiled rice or boiled potatoes.