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Playing How to Make Kheema Pav (Sloppy Jai)

Asheville, North Carolina-based Meherwan Irani, a car salesman turned James Beard Award-nominated chef, is so passionate about spices, he founded the acclaimed small-batch spice company SpiceWalla in 2017. Selling quality spices is one thing, though. How to get home cooks to embrace them is another. As Rach says, people can be so afraid of using spices at home; Meherwan helps make them more accessible by featuring them in spins on familiar recipes, such as this Indian version of sloppy Joes. It contains standbys, such as coriander and cumin, as well as more exotic Kashmiri chili powder and garam masala. The result is so fragrant and delectable, you may not want to eat plain sloppy Joes again! 

Note: Ginger-garlic paste is simply equal parts peeled ginger and garlic blended together with a tiny bit of oil in a food processor. For ¼ cup each of ginger and garlic, use about 1 teaspoon of neutral oil to help them blend into a smooth paste. (If you don't have a food processor, finely mince the ginger and garlic with a knife and skip the oil.) The paste will keep in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for at least a month. "This stuff is gold," says Meherwan. Not only does he use it in dishes like this one, it makes a great base rub for chicken and meats. 

Pro Tip from Meherwan: Starting with fresh (generally, less than a year old) spices and then "blooming," or toasting, them in a little oil, which brings out their "essence," is key for the best results. 

For more spice inspiration, check out Rachael's Chickpea Curry and Indian-Style Onion-Marinated Steak.  


  • 2 tablespoons oil of choice
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • Pinch of black peppercorns
  • 2 cups diced red onion, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon diced serrano peppers
  • 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (see Note above)
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • Handful of chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 4 to 6 pav (Indian bread buns) or any soft dinner roll, but Hawaiian rolls work best, split
  • Butter, for the bread
  • Sweet yogurt (yogurt mixed with a little sugar), for garnish
  • Green chutney, for garnish


Serves: 4 to 6


In a large skillet, add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and black peppercorns. Let sputter, then add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the serranos and saute, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute, stirring occasionally, until the raw smell is gone. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili powder and saute, stirring, for 1 minute. 

Increase the heat to medium-high, add the lamb and mix well with the other ingredients, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Brown the lamb, stirring often and breaking up any chunks, until fully cooked. Add the yogurt and stir to combine, then add the tomatoes, cilantro, garam masala, sugar and vinegar and simmer about 20 minutes. Check for salt and keep warm over low heat. 

To assemble, griddle the pav on both sides with butter. Pile the kheema high on each bottom bun, drizzle with sweet yogurt and green chutney, garnish with the extra diced red onions and chopped cilantro. Top with the other half of the pav.