Nepali-Style Goat Pakku
Goat Pakku is a popular stye of slowly cooking goat especially during Nepali Hindu's main festival Dashain.
Back in 2013, I was in Nepal around this time of year celebrating Dashain with my family (read more about it here). Dashain is like Christmas and Thanksgiving combined where we spend quality time with our loved ones, eat a lot, and count our blessings. There is a whole religious aspect to Dashain but since I am not an expert in that area, let's focus on family and good food. Goat is a popular choice of meat during Dashain among Nepali people because it is relatively expensive than chicken or water buffalo so people look forward to eating goat around this time of the year. I don't really celebrate Dashain here but I thought the least I could do was learn how to cook Nepali Style Goat Pakku and reminisce my time I was in Nepal.
My dad used to be fairly busy while I was growing up but during Dashain, he made sure to spend time with us and help my mom with cooking. My mom mostly took care of everything else while my dad took the lead when cooking Goat Pakku (some call it Goat Kabab). It involved lots of inactive time, patience, and some muscle strength, all of which my dad exhibited very well. Goat meat is one of those things you either love it or you don't. It is leaner when compared to other traditional meat but it's the smell and taste that some people can't get on board with. Also, it is not widely available in grocery stores; I usually go to Arabic or Mexican meat market (ask for chivo) to find goat meat.
Just like Weeknight Chicken Curry, every family has a special way of making Goat Pakku. The type of spices used, choice of cooking vessel (pressure cooker vs heavy bottom pot), and skin-on or skinless is entirely dependent upon each family. Since this way was my first time making it, I obviously had to call the experts in my family, aka my parents. My mom gave suggestions for spices, my dad inspected its color (via pictures) and guided me through the cooking process over the phone. I am not the biggest fan of touching raw meat with my bare-hand but experts insisted that goat needs lots of massaging and over-night marination, so I did it by liberally coating goat meat with oil and spices.
Also, my mom said using pure mustard oil to marinate the meat gives a unique flavor. Mustard oil can be found at Indian grocery stores too. Besides Goat Pakku, use mustard oil for Chicken Choyela and Potato Salad. Unlike most curries, Goat Pakku requires slow cooking for a long period of time over low-medium heat.
Goat meat typically takes longer to cook so you can use a pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time but I didn't take any chances with it. As this is my first time making Goat Pakku, I wanted to see the different stages of cooking and observe the color transformation before the final product was ready. Goat Pakku is normally made in large quantities so when you have extended families and guests come over during Dashain, you can quickly reheat Goat Pakku and serve them.
The flavor of Goat Pakku gets better as time goes by and the more you reheat, the darker it gets. So if you've never had goat meat before or if you want to try a different type of meat, I highly suggest you give Goat Pakku a chance. If you are Nepali and far away from home during this Dashain, this recipe is for you!! I hope you will take sometime to make Goat Pakku and share it with your loved ones.
Nepali-Style Goat Pakku
3 lbs cubed goat meat (skinless, bone-in)
1/4 cup mustard oil
1.5 heaping tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon red chili powder
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 heaping tablespoon minced ginger
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 bay leaves
3-4 large black cardamom
3 cinnamon bark
salt, pepper to taste
In a large bowl, massage goat meat with oil and remaining spices until evenly coated. Let it sit in the refrigerator for few hours or overnight.
Heat a large heavy bottom pot over low-medium heat. Add the meat and let it slowly cook for 30-35 minutes covered but stirring every 10 minutes or so. Continue to cook you notice a lot of water coming out which will eventually dry out.
Reduce the heat to low and remove the cover. Let it cook for 25-30 minutes stirring every 10-15 minutes until the meat is tender to touch.
Remove cinnamon barks, bay leaf, cardamom, and cloves right before serving.