If you’ve been to Lahore, Pakistan, you most certainly must have visited or at the very least heard of the famous Butt Karhai restaurant located at Laksmi Chowk. I initially came to know of this tasty Lahori Karhai cooked with organic meat in Desi Ghee and Butter in 2016 as I was preparing to attend an exhibition there. ‘I don’t see Butt Karhai on the itinerary’, one of my bosses complained. Perplexed at his seemingly absurd request, I looked towards my colleague who assured them he’d squeeze in a visit in our already tight 3-day schedule.
On the 2nd day of the exhibition, after spending nearly the entire day on our feet we reached Butt Karhai at Lakshmi Chowk. I won’t lie, at first glance I was not the least bit impressed, given the roadside seating arrangement and crowded vicinity. However, once we were served a sizzling tray of incredibly flavourful Karhai with crispy naans, this experience became one of the most memorable meals of my life.
Karhai recipes vary from one region to another. Peshawari Karhai, Lahori Karhai, White Karhai, Koila Karhai, Balochi Karhai, and many more, are all unique versions of the same humble Karhai. Some Karhai recipes call for onions, some don’t. Some use yogurt, others don’t. However, one element that is used in almost all Karhai recipes are tomatoes. I will be sharing different Karhai recipes here from time to time, so let’s begin with Butt Karhai inspired Lamb Karhai.
This recipe is enough for two servings. If you wish to increase the quantity, you can easily increase the amount as per your requirements. I am also attaching step by step pictures for clarity. I have used lamb in this recipe, but you may use chicken, beef or mutton.
- Bone in lamb ½ kg (small pieces)
- Onion 1 medium
- Tomatoes 4-5 medium
- Red Chili Powder ½ tsp (Omit if you prefer low spice levels)
- Salt to taste
- Turmeric ½ tsp
- Ginger & Garlic paste 1 tbsp
- Green Chilli 1-2
- Oil ¼ cup
- Ginger 2-inch piece julienned
- Yogurt 2 tbsp
- Black Pepper ¼ tsp
- Garam Masala 1 pinch
- Cumin (roasted and coarsely crushed) ½ tsp
- Coriander Seeds (roasted and coarsely crushed) ½ tsp
- Ghee or Butter 1 tbsp
- Cream 1 tbsp (optional)
- Green Coriander (for garnishing) as required
Before I cook lamb, I usually blanch it for 5 minutes in water with vinegar and discard the water to get rid of any odours in the meat. You may skip this step and start directly from the next step. In a pressure cooker, add lamb, onions, tomatoes, chilli powder, turmeric, salt, ginger garlic paste and 1 sliced green chilli with 1 cup of water. I sliced the onion really fine but added the tomatoes cut into halves, as it becomes easier to pull of their skins, thus giving you a smooth looking gravy without any tomato peels. Pressure cook the lamb for 15-20 minutes or 90% cooked.
Transfer this mixture into a Karhai (Wok) or wide surfaced saucepan. Cook on high flame whilst stirring continuously. The objective is to dry up the water content. As you simmer add oil and ginger. If you prefer spicy food, feel free to add 1 more sliced green chilli at this point. Once the oil begins to surface, add yogurt and keep simmering. Don’t forget to stir at regular intervals. Season with black pepper, garam masala powder, cumin and coriander. Add butter and cream as it starts bubbling. Once the gravy has thickened and oil has separated, sprinkle with finely cut fresh coriander and ginger. Serve hot with naan, chapati or bread of your choice.