Pakistani Kofta Curry

Pakistani Kofta Curry

I was commissioned to write a piece for Edible Toronto – I chose to write about a recipe I grew up eating, my Nani Ami’s spiced meatball curry, also known as Kofta Curry.

This is a comforting Pakistani dish made in almost every home. My article is about how my parents entertained throughout my childhood: elegantly, with seemingly effortless perfection.

And today, in my home, I wonder if I can do the same.

I hope you enjoy reading the piece I wrote here.

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Pakistani Kofta Curry

Yield: 4
Author: Shayma Saadat



  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour (see additional notes)1
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 11 in length ginger, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne, plus more if needed
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 1 lb medium ground beef (not lean, as it will prevent the meatballs from binding)

Tomato yogurt sauce

  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt (non-fat yogurt tends to curdle when cooked)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more if needed
  • kettle of boiling water
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon, cilantro (or other herb of your choice)


Make the meatballs

  • In a mortar and pestle, grind the chickpeas, in batches, to a fine powder (or use chickpea flour); set aside.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the onion half and the ginger until a paste is formed.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the onion and ginger paste, chickpea powder, egg, salt, cayenne, and the peppercorns. Do a taste test of the seasonings by frying a teaspoon of the mixture with a bit of oil in a frying pan. Add more salt and cayenne pepper, as needed.
  • Pinch off a piece of the ground beef mixture and gently roll it in the palm of your hand to form a ball measuring about 1½-inches in diameter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture. You will end up with approximately 21 meatballs. Cover the meatballs with a clean tea towel and refrigerate while you make the tomato yoghurt sauce.

Make the sauce

  • In a small stockpot or large heavy saucepan over medium heat, add the oil.
  • Add the onion, stirring occasionally until it begins to turn golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika and turmeric.
  • Cook, stirring frequently until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and increase the heat to medium-high (be careful, as the mixture will sputter).
  • Stir vigorously for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the water, remove the pot from the stove, and allow to cool slightly.
  • Transfer the tomato sauce to a blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Return the sauce to the pot.
  • Add the yoghurt and salt, stirring until well combined.
  • Gently place the meatballs into the pot, leaving some space between each meatball.
  • Add enough boiling water from the kettle to just cover the meatballs.
  • Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Gently turn over each meatball.
  • Replace the lid and simmer for 20 more minutes.
  • Taste and add salt, as needed.
  • Sprinkle with lots of fresh tarragon or your favourite herb and serve alongside basmati rice or bread.


  1. Can be replaced with 1/2 cup unsalted roasted chickpeas (found in Pakistani or Indian grocery stores)

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  1. Hi Shyama,
    Been following your blog for a while (and I love it!) but this particular entry reminded me so much of my Ma.Even though we both live in Bombay,having gotten married a year back, I’ve come to realise I’m so much like her specially when it comes to entertaining and doing things in the kitchen. I think we end up emulating them as they are such wizards ..and ofcourse the Indian & Pakistani way of so many things are just the same :). Infact your kofta curry reminds me of the sindhi style kofta curry made at my mum’s place.
    Keep the entries coming.

    1. Hello – Thank you so much. I am so honoured to read that my post reminded you of your Ma. I wish I could emulate my Ami, I feel like I am not even a patch on her. Also, yes, you are right, there are so many similarities between our cultures, there are always stories to share, aren’t there? I would love to hear more about your Ma’s kofta curry. Thanks for writing to me. Shayma

    1. Dear Mardi, Thank you so much for taking time to read my piece. It means a lot to me. It is strange how we realise cerrain things – such as the traits that we have inherited from our parents – at the strangest of times. For me, many a time, it has been when I am preparing a dish for loved ones. x s

  2. This dish looks absolutely delicious and your story, as always, brought a smile to my face. While times certainly have changed, and what you offer your guests may not match the number of plates your mother would serve, there is no doubt you set an elegant and culturally rich table for those you entertain. Both your mother and grandmother must be very proud.

  3. I always love reading your posts. They give me a visual detail of the story. I almost could see the Royal Doulton plates and platters and you running around the house. My Maa being restricted to resources, always put up her best. Even with a short notice, Baba will run to the local market and bring back whatever best he could afford. Maa will sweat in her tiny kitchen until she makes sure she is happy with the menu. I am like you. I try my best, adapting to my life but still being my Maa. I never paid attention to her cooking as a kid but somehow her way of cooking is ingrained in me. I think in general it’s an Asian culture to treat guests like that. In Hindu culture, there is a saying in Sanskrit “atithi deva bhaba” meaning ‘guests are God like” and should be treated like that.

    Sorry, I mistakenly wrote under the wrong post 🙁

  4. This was perfect! My mom/grandmother are/were the same way. Serving one main dish to them is criminal. I always try to explain to my mom that you are too exhausted by making so many dishes you can’t even enjoy your guests! Really fabulous job and a great picture. Bravo.

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