Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Polashi Pantha

Bengalis do not need an excuse to consume goat meat but if you are looking for one, there are plenty to choose from. Although goat meat is the most widely consumed red meat in the world, it is still considered an exotic meat in the West. Executive chefs may tout their new discovery as "cabrito" or "chevon" but to Bengalis, its just an age old way of celebrating the simple pleasures of life...... the Sunday afternoon, the winning match, the out of town guest, the completion of Kali Puja, the treat for a son-in-law, the winter picnic, the republic day holiday, exciting election news, hearty appetites after holi khela....the list goes on.

Being one of the healthiest meats available, goat meat or "panthar mangsho" deserves to be celebrated too. Compared to other popular meats like chicken and beef, it has fewer calories, less saturated fats and cholesterol, more iron and just as much protein! In fact it is one of the most leanest meats and definitely a heart healthy alternative. You can find more on this here.

The younger the goat the more tender the meat....and it is invariably the male goats that are eaten, raised for their meat either neutered (khashi) or not (pantha). The neutered animals develop more fat and are usually preferred for richer dishes while the leaner pantha is used more for everyday cooking. And its always "bone-in" for Bengali goat meat curries, boneless cuts just do not provide the one-of-a-kind satisfaction of slurping the marrow, crunching through cartilage and gnawing on ribs. Minced goat meat or "keema", also popular among Bengalis, is traditionally produced on the butcher's chopping block, rather than being mechanically ground, which gives it a very unique texture. Goat liver is another delicacy, cooked in a dry spicy curry, and a favorite Bengali remedy for anemia.

Bengalis have a number of different styles of cooking goat but in all of these you will see that the flavor unique to Bengali mutton preparations comes from what is not added to the meat rather than what is. There is no panch phoron, dhoney, hing  etc the basic ingredients are very simple - holud, lonka and garam mashla, along with ada/peyaj. The rest are all optional it jeere, garlic, tomato, yogurt, tej pata, mustard, coconut milk or what have you. Ultimately it is the flavor of the meat that shines through.

There may be a special place in every Bengali's heart for the rich, dry "kosha mangsho" - the ultimate indulgence when served up  with luchi, porota or polau. But there is nothing more comforting than the thought of a bowl of goat meat stew or "mangsher jhol" with rice followed by an afternoon nap!  Huge amounts of goat meat curry are cooked at weddings and in the olden days when there were no refrigerators, people came up with creative ways of eating the leftovers or "bashi mangsho" which had its own charm. Bengal has even created its own version of goat biriyani, lightly flavored and complimented with potatoes. And how can anyone forget the famous  kobiraji cutlets and mutton rolls of Kolkata?

Although goat meat is referred to as mutton in India, there is a clear distinction between lamb and goat. Whereas lamb is eaten in some parts of India, a true Bengali would never accept lamb or "bhera" as a substitute for goat. In fact if the goat meat does not have its distinct flavor or is too fibrous the Bengali babu often questions the butcher's intent and accuses him of cheating him with buro bherar mangsho or boka pantha!!

Even the probashi bangali living half a world away continues this love affair often driving great distances to acquire a local grown fresh cut of goat or even frozen imports. The breeds and thus the taste are not the same but that is a compromise they are willing to make until the next trip home. And it is for this reason a Bangali cannot venture far from home without his "amar sangee"....the pressure cooker!

The recipe below is one of my favorites because of the rich color this cooking process imparts. If you are wondering about the name, there is no cultural association, just something I came up with. :-) Enjoy!

Polashi Pantha পলাশী পাঁঠা 

5 lbs goat meat
3-5 potatoes
2-3 tomatoes
1-2 onions, chopped
1 inch stick of ginger, coarsely chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
6-8 green chilies, chopped
cooking oil
1 tablespoon of butter or ghee
1-2 cups water


  1. Clean the meat well, rub with half of the turmeric powder and keep aside
  2. Heat oil in the pressure cooker to high heat and add the sugar and wait til it caramelizes, this is what gives it the dark color.
  3. Lower the heat and add the dried red chilies, 1 teaspoon garam masala, black pepper, 1 bay leaf some butter and fry for a minute.
  4. Add a dollop of butter or ghee and fry the potatoes for 3-4 minutes and take them out of the cooker.
  5. Add the sliced onion, ginger and garlic and saute til transluscent
  6. Remove the fried onion mixture and place in a food processor with the raw tomatoes and blend to a paste. This process also contributes to the color of the meat.
  7. Now heat the remaining oil in the pan to medium high and add the meat and remaining turmeric and chili powder and stir fry the meat coating it well with the spices.
  8. After about 5-10 mins of doing this, add the oinion/tomato paste and stir together with the meat.
  9. Add the salt and continue to stir fry the meat for another 5-10 minutes. 
  10. Next add the potatoes and the water, cover and cook on high pressure for 15-20 minutes.
  11. When done, adjust the seasoning, garnish with green chilies and the rest of the garam masala
  12. Serve with piping hot white rice and a salad


  1. Hi Sutapa, Just wanted to say I absolutely love your site and your blog and the amazing collection of bangali ranna here. Being bangali, my husband and I are terrific foodies and our 2 year old girl has just begun the journey. What prompted me to write to you is that I was looking for a mangsho recipe to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Lo and behold! just as I opened your site the first thing that came up was Polashi Pantha. It looks heavenly and can't wait to make it this Friday.
    Keep cooking and keep posting wonderful recipes.Thanks a lot...Rashmi

    1. Thank you Rashmi! That is great to know! Appreciate your feedback!