Heat oil in a medium sized pot. This can be stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or aluminum pot. It is also possible to use a pressure cooker (or multicooker).
Add the sliced onions, and fry till they turn golden brown. Keep stirring regularly. The darker the color of the onions, the richer the color of the salan / gravy. However, be careful of burning the onions.
Once the onions have been browned, add the meat. Cook the meat on medium heat for a few minutes till it changes color and the water dries off. This step ensures that any possible smell (or heek) goes away.
Then add ginger garlic paste, as well as the powdered spices (coriander powder, red chili powder and turmeric powder), and salt. The spices need to be cooked on medium heat so that they release their flavor, and the raw taste dissipates. This process will take about 1 – 2 minutes. In case the spices are burning, add a splash of water.
Once the spices have been cooked, add yoghurt (if using) and saute for another 2 minutes.
Once the salan masala is ready, add water as required. The amount of water you add also depends on the meat and method of cooking you are using.
Depending on the water you add, this will be the type of salan that will be made:- Bhuna style chicken / gosht: If you add only a few tablespoons of water or yoghurt then your salan will be on the dry side, and will be called dry or bhuna style.- Salan: If you add 1 cup of water then it will be what is called a salan consistency. Think gravy like, but not too liquid.- Shorba: If you add about 1 ½ - 2 cups (or more) of water, then the gravy will be on the thinner side like a broth.If you are making a salan using red meat (goat meat, lamb or beef) you will need to add extra water, as the water will evaporate during cooking. If you are using a pressure cooker, you will need to reduce the amount of water as it won’t evaporate.
Bring the salan to a boil, and then turn heat to low partially covering the pot and cook the meat till it is tender . Boneless chicken will take around 30 minutes, bone-in chicken will take around 45 minutes. Beef, goat meat and lamb will take longer.
Once the meat is tender, taste and add salt if needed. You can also adjust the gravy quantity – add water, or turn the heat to high to evaporate some of the gravy.
Salan can be served with a South Asian style bread such as roti, chapati, naan or paratha. I personally prefer to have salan with roti or chapati. It can also be served with plain rice or zeera rice.