The picture above does not do justice to how wonderful this meat tastes. These spicy, tender cubes can be used in several dishes/recipes. Wherever my mother travels to, she is requested to make a big batch at her host’s home.
Otka is considered to be the ‘mother of all meats’ in our household. My mother says that it originated from Somalia and she learnt how to make it at her in-laws. The traditional method of cooking this meat takes 6-8 hours on a jiko (coal-burning stove) and the enormous amount of oil used to traditionally prepare it meant that it did not require refrigeration. We used to travel with it when we went on pilgrimage to Makkah. In my research, the only similar Somali food I found is Oodkac, I’m not sure if Otka is a borrowed concept from this dish.
Otka is like a base meat. There are countless number of dishes that you can make using the Otka. Although it still takes a while to make, keep in mind that it will probably last for 5-7 different meals.
Since I will be out-of-town for a while, I decided to make some Otka to take with me. Please note that this version does require refrigeration since I have significantly reduced the amount of oil and therefore there is not enough oil to preserve it. I usually make a batch and freeze in small Ziploc bags for a handy meal any time!
Accompaniments: Several options. See “Serving Suggestions” at the end of the recipe
- 5 lbs of lean boneless beef cubes
- 5 Tbsp garlic paste
- 3 Tbsp ginger paste
- 1/2 cup oil
- 3 large cinnamon sticks (taj)
- 3 cardamom pods (elachi)
- 10 whole black peppers (mari)
- 5 cloves (laving)
- 1 Tbsp crushed red chillies (lal marcha kutela) or red chili powder (or to taste)
- 4 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Cut the meat into small pieces, about 1 cm cubes and wash them in cool water.
- In a large pot, which has a lid, add the meat and all the ingredients apart from the garam masala.
- Give it a good stir. The total cooking time is approximately 2 1/2 hours. It is essential that the pot is kept covered at all times.
- Cover and cook on medium-high heat for 1/2 hour.
- The meat will have release some water. Reduce heat, cover and place on slow-medium heat (on my electric coil stove which has 1-7 temperature marks, I cook the Otka on mark 4).
- Do not add any water to the meat. It will release its own water and cook in it. Just keep an eye on the temperature, so that the water does not evaporate too fast.
- Every 30 minutes, give the meat a good stir.
- In the final 1/2 hour of cooking, reduce the temperature further. Check for done-ness.
- All the water should have dried up in the end and the meat should be tender, but still hold its shape.
- Finally, add the garam masala and let in sizzle in the oil from the meat.
As mentioned in the introduction, Otka can be eaten on its own or in several dishes. Take out a portion of the meat and use in the following ways:
- Add corn, green peppers to the Otka and use in stuffing buns or calzones.
- Make boiled rice, makai paka with corn-off-the-cob and serve with a side of Otka.
- Use in pita pockets as a shawarma meat.
- Use as a pizza topping.
- Use as meat filling in lasagnas and spaghetti dishes.
- Add mozzarella cheese to some Otka and use to make sandwiches in a sandwich maker.
- Use to make a beef and vegetable stir-fry.
- Add potato cubes to Otka and serve with Rotli or Parothas and salad.
- Use in recipes that ask for boiled beef cubes such as Pilau. The spices will give the dish and extra oomph!
Approx. nutritional content: Assuming that the entire batch yields about 4.5 pounds of Otka and one serving is 150g. Unable to calculate the amount of cholesterol the meat contains, but it sure does contain some!