Tomji’s Spicy Kerala Beef with Coconut Chips

My brother Tomji, a well-known wildlife conservationist, is also a carnivore. People in Kerala call this preparation Erachi Olarthya or beef roast with fresh coconut chips. Tomji will literally sing for this supper—with his distinctive baritone crooning his signature “Mona Lisa,” he gives Nat King Cole a run for his money! If my big brother didn’t live so far away, I’d make it for him all the time.





3 whole dried red chili peppers (dry roasted)

½ teaspoon turmeric 

10 curry leaves

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 cup water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

5 garlic cloves

1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (unpeeled is fine)

1 cup onions, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


1½ lbs beef stew meat in 2-inch cubes (Try American Kobe, it’s worth it!) 

2 cups coconut chips (frozen coconut chips are available at most Indian grocery stores) 



4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 jalapeño peppers, quartered lengthwise 

10 curry leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 medium onions, thinly sliced


Roasting ingredients:

3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, slivered

2 teaspoons Deepa’s Secret Spice
(p. 24) (or substitute Quick Mix Meat)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tomato, quartered

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Make ahead: Deepa’s Secret Spice. Try to have this spice mix on hand ahead of time.

1. In a food processor, blend marinade ingredients to a paste. 

2. Mix meat and coconut chips with the marinade in a large glass bowl. Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes at room temp or up to 24 hours in the fridge. (Bring to room temperature before cooking.) 

3. Cook the marinated meat and coconut chips in a covered heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium heat for 30 minutes.

4. Tadka: Meanwhile, heat oil in a 10-inch skillet or wok over medium heat until shimmering. Drop a couple of mustard seeds in the oil; if seeds do not splutter, continue heating oil and try again. 

5. Shield yourself with a lid as you add jalapeño and curry leaves. Sauté for one minute. Transfer jalapeno and curry leaves onto a small plate with a slotted spoon to use for garnish later. Add mustard and fennel seeds to the skillet. When they begin to pop, add the onions. Brown the onions until golden. 

6. Add roasting ingredients and sauté for one minute.

7. Stir in cooked meat and coconut chips and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

8. Stir in lemon juice. Check seasoning and garnish with the reserved jalapeño and curry leaves.



Serve warm with Heritage Barley (Better Than Rice) Pilaf, Chukku’s Yogurt Salad, Peppery Papadum and Crackling Okra.