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What is Dopiaza?

Understanding Spices

Do you like onions and big, bold spices? If the answer’s yes, chances are you’ll love Dopiaza curry. While not quite as renowned as classics such as the Balti or the Rogan Josh, this traditional Indian dish has been around for centuries, dating all the way back to the Mughal times. If you’re visiting any good curry house or restaurant, you’d expect to see it in various forms on the menu.

But what exactly is it? Well, ‘Dopiaza’ directly translates to ‘two onions’. This is because onions are usually added at two phases during the cooking process. Some are fried and others boiled. All these onions are cooked in the spices and the curry, together with some form of meat (usually lamb, beef, chick, mutton or shrimp). Juxtaposed with the standard way of using the onions in two different ways (fried and boiled), some more traditional versions of Dopiaza use twice the weight of onions compared with the weight of the chosen meat.

You may be wondering how this all came to be. Why so many onions? Similarly to Dhansak, Dopiaza has a connection to Persian cuisine due to a group of Persian Muslims called the Mughals. They ruled over the Indian and Pakistan empires from the 1500s – 1600s.

Legend has it that during this time, there was a cook, or a courtier. Apparently his name was Do Piaza, but you know how these myths and legends develop. He worked for Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great who reigned from 1556 to 1605.

One day, whilst cooking up a delicious curry, he accidentally added far too many onions. Fortunately for him though, it appears that Akbar didn’t mind and, rather than Do Piaza’s head rolling, a new dish was born. Perhaps this is in part down to Akbar the Great’s pacifying nature. He is known primarily for his policy of religious tolerance that won him the loyalty of many non-Muslim populations within his realm. Or perhaps, he really did just love his onions.

Legend and myths aside, the Dopiaza curry went on to develop and evolve further in Hyderabad – the capital and largest city of the Indian state Telangana. As is typical with a lot of the Hyderabadi cuisine, the use of souring agent is a key part of Dopiaza curry. Raw or unripe mangoes are a particular go-to but lemon juice, cranberries or even sumac berries can make a great substitute here. As you can imagine, their flavour adds a distinct kick.

Today, you can find Dopiaza prepared across Pakistan, Sindh, Punjab and Bangladesh regions in India, as well as Iran and Afghanistan.

The beauty of this curry lies in the fact that it’s not trying to do too much. It’s not too fancy. It’s just a simple, tasty curry that lets the onions come through. This of course means that it really isn’t too difficult to make! If you want to give it a go, you can read our very own chicken or lamb Dopiaza curry recipe right here. It’s delicious and makes great use of our special Dopiaza spice blend.

Here at our headquarters on the Wirral, we’ve carefully blended white cumin (roasted and ground down), whole fenugreek seeds, grounded turmeric root, roasted and grounded coriander seeds, crushed red chillies, whole fennel seeds and hand selected clove buds. Enjoy!

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