Rude Food by Vir Sanghvi: Telling the goats from the sheep

Dec 04, 2021 07:56 PM IST

Indian food is hardly ever made with lamb but our chefs lie about this because they are too embarrassed to admit they use goat

My wife does not like chicken. Take her to a kabab restaurant and she will refuse to eat the chicken tikka. A barrah kabab or a raan will always be preferred. As for biryani, it must always be made with mutton. There is, according to her, no such thing as a good chicken biryani. A chicken burger is a joke, she says; a waste of good bread.

Goat is now a trendy, sustainable lean meat and sales are going up abroad as a new generation abandons the prejudices of the past
Goat is now a trendy, sustainable lean meat and sales are going up abroad as a new generation abandons the prejudices of the past
Lamb is actually a very different kind of meat from goat. It’s much fattier and smells different
Lamb is actually a very different kind of meat from goat. It’s much fattier and smells different

“I am sorry”, she will say. “I don’t like lamb.”

The Rolling Stones was so fascinated by the novelty of eating goat meat that they called their album Goat’s Head Soup, with a corresponding cover artwork (left), though it released with an alternate cover (right)
The Rolling Stones was so fascinated by the novelty of eating goat meat that they called their album Goat’s Head Soup, with a corresponding cover artwork (left), though it released with an alternate cover (right)

It is the same in the Caribbean, the one other place where goat meat is popular. In 1972/73, when the Rolling Stones were recording an album in Jamaica, they subsisted on a diet of meat patties in the studio. (When they were not indulging in more exotic substances, I imagine.) At some stage they discovered that the patties were not made from beef or lamb as they had assumed . They were made from goat meat. The Stones were shocked. Goat? They wondered: who the hell eats goats?

All the great meat dishes of Indian cuisine use goat. So, many Indians like goat, not lamb, baffling chefs who’ve been trying to fudge the difference between the two
All the great meat dishes of Indian cuisine use goat. So, many Indians like goat, not lamb, baffling chefs who’ve been trying to fudge the difference between the two

That was in 1973, and even today most people in the West still regard the idea of cooking goat as either odd or even revolting.

There is not much good quality lamb in India so nearly all the meat (mutton) you will be served at restaurants will be goat
There is not much good quality lamb in India so nearly all the meat (mutton) you will be served at restaurants will be goat

Lamb is actually a very different kind of meat from goat. For one, it is much fattier. For another it smells very different. If you know your meat, then it is easy to tell the difference between a biryani made with lamb and one made with goat.

The widespread use of goat as the favoured red meat is a peculiarly South Asian phenomenon. In most of the world they use lamb
The widespread use of goat as the favoured red meat is a peculiarly South Asian phenomenon. In most of the world they use lamb

Speaking for myself, I love good lamb but I take her point about how Indian food only really tastes right when you use goat.

Goat is a leaner meat and has much less saturated fat than pork, lamb, beef and even chicken
Goat is a leaner meat and has much less saturated fat than pork, lamb, beef and even chicken

As for our restaurateurs and chefs, I can understand why they are still so scared of saying that they are serving goat meat. (Not every Westerner is as excited by the idea of eating goat as the Rolling Stones were.) But it is time to stop lying and pretending that the goat on the menu is actually lamb.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Why hide the papers? Why keep the conspiracy theories related to Netaji Subhas Bose’s death alive? And why deny India the truth about the death of one of its great freedom fighters?

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