The Costa Hotel is a Mangalorean institution and serves probably the best Mangalorean food I've eaten. Any Mangalorean will recognise this name, and will probably have eaten there at some point! They have many specialities, but for me their standout dish is their beef chilly fry, which is unlike anything else I have tasted. Spicy enough to make the most seasoned spice eaters' eyes water, but at the same time, so moreish that you cannot stop eating it. Its a vibrant red colour, probably due to the liberal use of hot chilli powder, and something that I miss so much when I am away from home.
A group of us always used to rush to Costa's to eat our lunch when we were at college, almost always ending up going back late for classes, and getting told off by our lecturers. Ah, happy days! Even now, my first request on going back home is for my dad to go out and get me a plateful of beef chilly fry and malabar parathas from Costa's that I will then devour greedily.
Now you may have noticed that I do not tend to post very many meat recipes on here. That's because both my husband and daughter are pescitarian and don't eat meat. So when I do cook meat, I almost always cook things that I remember from my childhood, that remind me of home and traditional Mangalorean recipes. This one is one of my absolute favourites! I still haven't managed to replicate the exact Costa taste (and I probably never will), but I believe this recipe comes pretty close.
I suggest that if you are Mangalorean, you may want to increase the quantity red chillies in this recipe, as it will add that super spicy flavour that you may remember from Costa's. Me, I have lived too long in the West, and my tastebuds have gone a bit wonky, I now prefer a subtle flavour instead of heavy spicing. Either way, here's the recipe, and do let me know if you like it.
This dish tastes much better after it has sat in the fridge for a day, so if you can, pop the finished dish into the fridge, reheat and serve the next day for the best taste. It tastes awesome with just about any bread, my favourite is with sannas.
½ kilo beef, cut into small cubes (I use top cut sirloin, as you don't have to cook it for very long, but you can use braising or stewing beef)
1 big onion, diced large
1 big, or 2 small tomatoes, diced large
2 flakes of garlic, sliced
1 - 2 hot green chillies, sliced lengthways (optional)
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp hot chilli sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce (optional)
Salt to taste
Around 2 tbsp oil
For the masala:
4 - 5 long mild red chillis (use more or less according to your spice tolerance, I would suggest about 3 or 4 more for Mangaloreans)
¾ tsp cumin seeds, jeera
5 - 6 whole peppercorns
1 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark
4 whole cloves
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
4 flakes of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp paprika (optional)
½ medium onion, chopped
For the masala marinade:
Toss together the red chillies, cumin seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves in a hot, heavy pan, until the spices are just toasted. Transfer to a heavy duty blender or mixie. In the same pan, add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger and fry without oil till the raw smell from the onion disappears, around 5 - 6 minutes. Transfer to the blender with the spices, and grind to a fine paste, using a little water if necessary. You should get quite a nice red paste. If your paste is not red enough, use a tablespoon of paprika, it will give the masala a lovely red colour without adding too much spiciness.
Add salt to taste. I normally use around 1 and half teaspoon.
Marinate the cubed beef in this masala for at least 1 hour, more if possible.
In a pan, heat the oil, then add the diced onion. Fry for about 5 minutes on a medium heat, stirring. Add the sliced garlic and green chillies (if using) and fry for a minute more. Now add the tomatoes, and cook for roughly 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and squishy.
Add the marinated meat along with any marinade, to the pan, and fry on a high heat, stirring constantly until the beef is cooked and the masala is quite dry. Cooking time will depend on the tenderness of the beef. For me it takes around 10 - 12 minutes. Stir in the soya and chilli sauce and tabasco and cook for a few more minutes.
Taste and adjust the salt. You can make this dish with a little gravy if you want, just add a dash of water as the beef cooks.