This is a Pakistani and North Indian-Muslim recipe, but there is no Pakistani label in cuisine type (kyon jee ?!?!). This is a heavy duty, real deal recipe. No yellow turmeric curry powders or sour cream here. The dish is perfumed with garam masala and the meatballs should turn out luxuriously tender. Eat with plain basmati rice or with naan.

If you do not regularly cook desi (subcontinental) food and don’t have typical desi ingredients in the home, you will have to go for a trip to your Indo-Pak grocer to pick up a few things. Namely ground poppy seed powder (khas khas powder), which is an optional ingredient, a good quality garam masala, a box of Shan brand Qorma masala (it is an authentic and widely used Pakistani spice mix, highly reputable, and far from the yellow curry powders), and a packet of chickpea flour a.k.a gram flour (besan). If you like heat, I would also recommend that you invest in a desi type of chili powder. Lastly, you should only use real yoghurt (Greek type), which you can also get at the desi grocery.

The recipe’s ingredients are broken into two parts: koftay (meatballs) and saalan (wet gravy).

  • Yields: 4-6 servings (2-3 meatballs per person)

Ingredients (24)

KOFTA Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. chickpea flour (besan)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 lb ground beef or mutton
  • 1 tsp crushed fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp poppy seed powder (khas khas powder)—optional, just gives that extra umph
  • 1-2 fresh green chilies
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp salt or salt to taste
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 slice white bread soaked in milk and then squeezed

SAALAN (Gravy) Ingredients

  • 1 cup real yoghurt whipped
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp crushed fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed fresh garlic
  • 2 heaping tbs Shan Qorma Masala
  • salt to taste (about 1 heaping tsp)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1 tbs fresh chopped cilantro for garnish


  1. In a dry hot pan, roast the chickpea flour for a few minutes until it browns a little bit and you can smell the toasty aroma. Set aside.
  2. Finely slice two of the onions, then caramelize them in oil until they are crispy brown: deep fry on high heat for about 7-10 minutes, then lower the heat and allow to brown. this takes about 20 more minutes—-this is a typical step in South Asian cooking and you should know how to do this if you would like to cook authentically from this region) Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and set aside.
  3. In a food processor, grind the raw onion, half of the browned onions, and green chilies
  4. Place the ground meat in a largish mixing bowl: add the ground onion/chili mixture, the squeezed milk-soaked bread, and all of the other KOFTA ingredients. Knead very well with your hands, mixing, mashing, breaking down the fibers of the meat to achieve maximum tenderness. You should mix and mash for about 10 minutes.
  5. With wet hands, roll out the ground meat mixture into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. You should get around 12 meatballs or so. Set these aside.
  6. Heat on high 1/4 cup oil in a deep pot. Add in the other half of the browned onions, the garlic, and ginger and stir for around 30 seconds until the garlic and ginger cook. Do this quickly and do NOT blacken the onions or your gravy is ruined.
  7. Stir in whipped yoghurt (when you add this it will prevent the browned onions from blackening.
  8. Add the salt and the Shan Qorma Masala, and about 1/2 cup of water. Mix well.
  9. Cover, lower heat, and allow to cook for 20 minutes until oil separates from gravy. Stir occasionally to prevent gravy from sticking to pan.
  10. Next, add meatballs in pan a single layer. Add 1/2 cup more water if necessary. Meatballs should be about half way covered in gravy. Turn up heat, allow the gravy to boil, then cover and lower heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, turning the meatballs by shaking the pan gently.
  11. Lastly, add 2 cups of water to the pot, allow to boil, then lower heat and cover. Allow to cook for 1/2 hour.
  12. When done, you should have a lot of gravy. It should be liquidy, but velvety.
  13. Garnish with cilantro.