Spicy Beef Ularthiyathu

spicy beef ularthiyathu

The Beef Ularthiyathu is one of the most popular meat delicacies from Kerala. Period!

One that every meat eating Malayalee will proudly admit to have had religiously during his/her time spent in Kerala, whether or not they have actually had it!

Why? Firstly, it is a celebration of spices, coconut & one of the most delicious meats, beef!

 Local Trivia

In Kerala, you are bound to find Beef Ularthiytahu in every restaurant, although the best preparations are undoubtedly reserved to the local bars or smaller street side stalls!

While the ‘Beef Ularthiyathu’ is often called by many other names, at street side stalls if you ask for it, most often the Beef Dry Fry is what you shall get instead.

The Beef Ularthiyathu or Beef Dry Fry is extremely popular as a ‘touching’ (drink accompaniment) at local Kerala bars or more colloquially just ask for BDF and your waiter will be pleased!

Secondly, it is a classic dish from the age old Syrian Christian cuisine, which boasts centuries of local culinary tradition and perfection.

Thirdly, it can be had with any form of bread, rice or anything between, such as local accompaniments like appams and dosas; but personally I just love it on its own as a touching.

Not many dishes has this versatility. You can possibly get away having it even with noodles! 

beef ularthiyathu sandwich

…used the leftovers in a rustic white bread sandwich the next day..yum!

A bit of history of Syriac Christian cuisine if you are keen…

Beef Ularthiyathu is a dish that attributes its origin in the kitchens of the Syrian (Syriac) Christians of Kerala.

However, I was curious.

The Syrian Christian origins of this dish baffled me a tad. I was interested in finding out what made this and few other popular non-veg dishes from Kerala ‘Syrian Christian’, when there are several different (and mind boggling) christian denominations in Kerala!

In the ingredients used, there is nothing that is unique to a particular community’s style. The spices are native to the region and pretty much Kerala cuisine’s stock standard!

So I set out to understand the Syrian Christian cuisine a little.

But without going into the origins of how Syrian Christians themselves came into being, how can we understand their cuisine? In a nutshell,

It is believed that in 52 AD, Saint Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus who came from the region called Fertile Crescent in the Middle East spread the Christian Gospel in Syriac language (Latin, Greek & Syriac were the three main languages with which Christianity was propagated in the world). And the people who practiced this religion came to be termed Syriac Christians or Syrian Christians as they are more popularly known in Kerala.

So being one of the earliest forms of Christianity that has existed in Kerala and also in the world, almost all traditional meat dishes from Kerala (barring the ones with more Arabic influences from the Northern part of Kerala), are Syrian Christian for this simple reason. 

{the recipe}

Now that we are fully equipped with the historical significance of Syrian cuisine & other trivia, isn’t it reason enough to know how to make it?

Now my recipe as always uses few hacks to simplify things for home cooks. This is an easy, no frills recipe. The Syrian Christian puritans may frown upon the use of desiccated coconut over small pieces of fresh coconut. But I assure you the taste will be spot on!

Here’s how to go about making it,

Spicy Beef Ularthiyathu

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serving Size: serves 5


  • 700g Beef cut into small chunks; In Australia, you can get Beef off-cuts from Coles, it's
  • perfect
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic grated
  • 1 knob ginger grated (keep garlic to ginger ratio 1:1)
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 6-10 curry leaves
  • approx. 100g desiccated coconut
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil coconut oil if you can get it else olive oil is just fine


  1. Using a pressure cooker is ideal; if not get a thick bottom vessel with a lid
  2. Heat the oil to a high temperature;
  3. Now reduce the flame to a minimum and add in the mustard seeds; wait until completely cracked
  4. Add dried chillies and wait for 5-10 secs for them to turn crispy
  5. Add the curry leaves, toss & wait for 10 more secs
  6. Add in the ginger & garlic, fry until slightly brown
  7. Sprinkle the coconut and fry until golden brown and the oils start to come out
  8. Add the masalas, allow them to fry a little (the aroma will change when fried)
  9. Add the onions & fatty beef pieces first. Stir well to combine.
  10. Toss in the rest of the beef
  11. Add two pinches of salt. Stir well.
  12. Close the vessel/cooker and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the beef pieces are tender.
  13. Open and cook until whatever water the beef has released dry up. You can add a bit more salt
  14. and coriander powder if you must at this stage after tasting.
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