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What is a Bhuna?

Understanding Spices

If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant or ordered Indian takeaway, then it’s likely you’ve seen bhuna on the menu. But what exactly is it? And how is it different to all the other curries on the menu?

The word bhuna actually refers to the cooking process rather than the type of dish. Originating from the Urdu word for ‘fried’, the spices used in the curry are fried in oil or ghee at a high temperature until they form a paste. This helps to bring out the flavours. However, the word is also commonly used to describe a curry dish which is prepared using this method.

The origins of bhuna can be traced back to the area of Bengal, a state in northeast India as well as western Bangladesh. This method of frying the spices was a common cooking technique for the meals prepared for Indian royals and aristocrats. Over time, the technique became common in most Indian households, and bhuna gained wide popularity.

How do I cook a bhuna?

Because bhuna is more of a cooking method rather than a dish, the recipes can vary greatly depending on who’s cooking. That being said, these are the basic spices you’ll need:

You’ll also need garlic, ginger and shallots – these are essential ingredients that are a no compromise!

The main meat used in a bhuna is lamb or chicken, but you can substitute these for beef, fish or prawns.

What vegetables you choose to add is up to you – the most commonly used ones are peppers, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

Once you have all your ingredients, it’s time to start the bhooning. Ghee is the best ingredient to use as it can withstand high temperatures. Fry your spices with a little water until they form a paste.

Next up, add the ginger, garlic and onions until they caramelise. If the mixture gets too dry, you can add a little water.

Add your meat and vegetables until everything is cooked through. The juices from the meat are slow cooked with the paste, resulting in a thick, spicy sauce. Remember, you don’t want it to be too runny. If you do want the curry to be a little runny, you can add coconut milk to thin the dish down. This also helps if you find the bhuna too spicy!

An important technique as you’re cooking is to keep folding the meat into the pan along with the sauce. As you do this on a high heat, it really helps to bring out the flavours and make sure that the sauce is absorbed by the meat.

Garnish with fried onions, fried green bell peppers and serve with rice or naan.

The great thing about a bhuna is that there’s no set ingredient list. As long as you know how to cook the spices, you can add just about anything to it.

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