Like many other 90s kids, my parents also moved and settled in the capital, away from their ancestral land and joint families. But like their peers, they couldn't seem to completely uproot themselves from their home village. Throughout the 90s and the 2000s, we spent every Eid at our village home in the southern Feni district, regardless of which season the Eid fell in.
In those years, especially during Eid vacations, we used to look like a big procession of six people - amma, abba, the four siblings - along with our luggages and food containers waiting at the bus station. We knew, within three to four hours, we would be at our village home, because that was the maximum time needed to reach Feni.
While returning to Dhaka, the procession seemed a bit heavier- with more food and the weight of the unhappy souls who had to join schools again, now that the vacation was over. During the Eid-ul-Adha, there was one precious item in that bounty of food containers and packets we brought back from the village- the dried beef. I knew amma would be cooking the dried beef strips with potato the next day.
The reason we would have dried meat in our luggage was back then we didn't have a refrigerator at our village home, not unlike most other homes, if not all. So, drying the meat of the sacrificed animal was the only way of preservation.
At one point we stopped visiting our village home during Eid, and this particular meat preparation just got lost from the menu. I didn't get to eat dried beef anymore as we no longer needed to preserve the meat like that. It kind of faded away from my memory.
Years later in 2019, when I am all grown up and working as a journalist, this childhood delicacy found its way back in my life in the most unexpected way.
One day, we arranged a one-dish party at our office with everyone bringing one special dish based on family recipes. Among the plates of delicious foods, I picked a beef dish. The beef was dark caramel-coloured, cut in thin strips and the texture was hard, almost like beef jerkys.
The colleague who brought the spicy dish was from Mymensingh, a northern district. Although the preparation was different from the one my mother cooked, the idea was quite similar.
That day I realised that food is a universal language which is spoken in different accents, tones and it can connect people of any region or culture. Drying meat had always been used to preserve meat worldwide when there was no fridge. Drying removes moisture from the meat so that microorganisms cannot grow. Dry sausages, meat shanks, and jerky products are all examples of dried meats that can be stored for a long period of time at room temperature.
There are various techniques of drying meat which inspired so many recipes all around the globe. The way people in Mymensingh cook the 'Gorur Shutki' or dried beef is not much dissimilar to the way my grandparents cooked it in Feni.
Dried beef or 'Gorur Shutki', is similar to beef jerkys or any other dried meat but instead of using dry spices for dry brining, in Bangladesh the meat is boiled with salt and turmeric powder. In some places, ginger-garlic paste is also used. Then it is dried in the sun. This sun-dried meat is then soaked and shredded for cooking.
How to make Gorur Shutki
1 kg of beef (curry-cut pieces)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ginger paste
½ teaspoon garlic paste
½ cup water
Thread and needle
Boil the meat with all the ingredients. The meat should be thoroughly boiled so that no water or moisture remains. But don't burn.
Disinfect the thread and the needle by putting it in boiling water for 3-4 minutes.
Take the boiled meat cubes and needle those into the thread and sun dry for 4-5 days. You could also use a large dish for drying in the sun. The meat should be dried until they turn hard like bones. Don't forget to turn the pisces over every now and then on the dish. Cover the dish with a thin net to protect from birds.
Store in airtight containers for 4-5 months.
Gorur Shutki bhuna recipe
Dried beef 300 grams (soaked overnight in water)
Oil ¾ cup
Bay leaf 2 pcs
Cinamon 1 medium stick
Cloves 4 pcs
Cardamom 4 pcs
Dried red chilli 3/4 pcs
Onion sliced ½ cup
Ginger-garlic paste 2 tablespoon
Turmeric powder 1 tablespoon
Red Chilli powder 2 teaspoon
Coriander powder 1 tablespoon
Cumin powder 1 teaspoon
Roasted cumin powder 1 teaspoon
Garam Masala ½ teaspoon
Salt to taste
Hot water ½ litre
Garlic cloves (Optional) 6 cloves whole
Boil the soaked shutki well. When they are soft, shred them in the food processor or by hand using mortar and pestle or even using the traditional sheel-pata.
Take a heavy-bottom deep pan and heat it up on the stove on medium flame.
Pour in the oil and heat to warm. Add bay leaf, cinamon, cloves, cardamom, dried red chilli. Cook until they release oil.
As you get a fragrance, add sliced onion and fry them on medium flame for about 15 minutes until they are light brown in colour.
Then, add the ginger paste, garlic paste and fry for another five minutes. Keep the flame medium to low and stir often. Add a little bit of water so that the spice mix doesn't stick to the bottom.
Next, add the dry spices (coriander, cumin, and red chilli). Continue frying the onions along with the spices for about 15 more minutes. By now (it's been 30 minutes since we started), your onions should have taken on a reddish-brown colour and the spices started releasing their oil.
Salt is a tricky component in this dish. As salt is added at different stages, be careful with it. Otherwise, it might get too salty.
When the spices are fried well, you will see oil floating over. This is the perfect time to add the shredded meat. Fry the meat, stirring frequently to check that it's not sticking to the pan, for 15 minutes on high heat. Add a splash of hot water if the spices seem too dry. We want a thick gravy like consistency here.
At this point, some like to add garlic cloves which get a bit softer. My mother added potato, cut in matchstick slices. But if you want to avoid them, that's absolutely alright.
When the consistency seems perfect and the meat is tender and the spices seem to be cooked thoroughly, It's time to turn the heat off and serve.
Serve this heavenly dish with paratha, white rice, flat bread or polao- it tastes good with anything. But I preferred to pair it with white rice.