What Is Dopiaza?

Eugene P.

Dopiaza is an Indian dish made primarily of onions that are prepared and added to the dish in two separate batches. There usually is some type of meat in the dish, most commonly chicken, although goat, lamb or beef also can be used, as can okra for a vegetarian preparation. The dish also contains a good amount of chili peppers, giving it a very spicy heat that develops as the ingredients are first fried, then simmered in water, and finally reduced to a thick paste that coats the ingredients. Although the word "dopiaza" is used to refer to the fully prepared dish, it also can be used specifically to indicate only the onion sauce, which also can be used in other recipes.

Dopiaza is often garnished with cilantro.
Dopiaza is often garnished with cilantro.

The most unique aspect of dopiaza is that a large amount of onions are added at two different points in the cooking process, with each batch of onions prepared differently so they create layers of flavor. One common way to do this is to chop half of the onions very coarsely and the other half very finely. The coarse onions are only cooked in the pan until they are translucent while the finely diced onions are fried until they have caramelized and turned brown. Another method involves chopping some of the onions and frying them until translucent, while the other half is placed in a food processor and ground down until it forms a paste that is fried until golden brown. A more robust version of dopiaza can be made by cooking one large batch of onions with whatever meat is being used and then, at the very end, sprinkling raw, diced onions on top.

Beef can be used in some preparations of dopiaza.
Beef can be used in some preparations of dopiaza.

One way to make dopiaza is to first fry some of the chopped onions until they are golden and caramelized, removing them from the pan once done. Next, another batch of onions is added to the pan along with spices such as cumin and coriander. The onions are fried just until translucent, after which the meat is added to the dish and allowed to brown on the outside. The chopped chili peppers are placed in the pan along with the caramelized onions, followed by enough water or stock just to cover everything.

The liquid in dopiaza is reduced until it is very thick and clings to all the ingredients. The finished dish can be garnished with fresh cilantro on top and served over rice, especially if a good amount of chili peppers were used. Some recipes also have chopped raw onions, accompanied by fresh lime juice, sprinkled over the top.

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