Let’s Talk Food: Indian Keema Curry

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson Keema Matar with basmati rice.

Want something different and yet quite simple to make? Keema is a popular Indian dish. In India, it is a stew prepared as a curry with minced lamb, goat, or mutton meat, green peas, potatoes, ginger, chili, onions, ghee, garlic and garam masala spices. Keema matar, translated, means “peas and minced meat” and was created by the royal cooks of Mughal India. It was served at special occasions and events like weddings and other celebrations and in Mughal families, it is part of their weekly meal.

Indian Spiced Beef and Peas or Keema Matar


Milk Street

Serves 6

14.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons neutral oil like canola or grapeseed

1 large red onion, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons garam masala ( you can find this at Island Naturals, Abundant Life, or Keaau Natural Foods)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef

2 cups frozen peas

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt, plus more to serve

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

In a medium bowl, use your hands to crush the tomatoes into small pieces. Stir in 1/2 cup water and tomato paste, then set aside. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until it shimmers. Measure out and reserve 1/4 cup of the onion,then add the remainder to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute.

Reduce to low, add the garam masala and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring and scraping up any spices, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Break the ground beef into 1 to 2 inch pieces and add to the skillet on top of the tomato mixture, but do not stir. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste, over the beef, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook without stirring until the beef is no longer pink on the exterior, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the peas and cook, uncovered, and break up the bits of beef, until the meat is no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered for 5 minutes. Stir in yogurt (letting the keema matar cool for 5 minutes is important, otherwise the yogurt may curdle) and serve, topped with cilantro, the reserved chopped onion and additional yogurt.

• • •

Keema first appeared in Japan in 1957 at a curry and coffee shop, Ajanta in Asagaya, Japan. The curry is toned down compared to the dish in Indian, and other umami seasonings and curry roux are added for the Japanese palate. Since that first introduction, it has become a regular at Indian restaurants all over Japan. In Japan, mutton is difficult to obtain so their keema is usually made with ground chicken or pork. It is a popular dish to make at home as it is easier to make than the regular Japanese curry.

Here’s a Japanese version of keema curry.

Keema Curry, Japanese Style

Serves 4

Chop the size of ground meat:

1 onion

1 stalk celery

6 shiitake mushrooms

1/2 carrot

In a large skillet, heat over medium:

1 tablespoons vegetable oil

Saute the minced onions until translucent. Add:

1 pound ground pork, beef or chicken

Cook until no longer pink. Season with

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Add minced celery, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms and mix well with the rest of the ingredients. Add:

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup water, or more to cover the ingredients

Add and mix well, cover and bring to a boil, cover and bring it to a boil. Skim off the scum and foam on the surface with a fine-mesh skimmer as necessary. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook cover until the vegetables are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add and dissolve completely:

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 cubes Japanese curry roux (roughly 2 ounces)

Add, mix well and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes:

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 tablespoons tonkatsu sauce

Serve keema curry over steamed rice and top each serving with a fried egg.

Non-Food Bites:


The Moghul Empire was an empire in South Asia. It included parts of the Indus basin, Afghanistan, Kashir, Assam, Bangladesh,the Deccan plateau in south India. It is said to have been founded in 1526 by Babur, a warrior chieftain.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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