Jalfrezi – an Indian Stir-fry



Yet another Indian dish with its origins in the time of the Raj, when the sub-continent was considered “The Jewel In The Crown” of the British Empire.

Even in the 1970s in Northern England we lived in the long shadow of the empire on which the sun never set – our classroom wall was adorned with a “pink bits” British Empire Map of the World, an artefact as oddly out of time and place as a child chimney sweep, or a horse-drawn omnibus.

As Indian cooks began to work for the British in India, a whole new culinary tradition began to emerge, now referred to as “Anglo-Indian”.

The Jalfrezi is part of that tradition. One thing Indian cooks were asked to do that was quite alien to them was re-use leftover food to create new dishes the following day.

The Jalfrezi was the result – Jal meaning “Pungently spicy” in Bengali, with Frezi referring to the stir-fry technique used. Leftover meats, etc. were quickly re-heated in a stir-fried sauce.

The Jalfrezi still works best as a quick stir fry using a pre-cooked primary ingredient. Leftovers are obviously good to use for this, but you can also pre-cook your meat or fish just prior to making the Jalfrezi sauce itself – see my Notes below for details.

Jalfrezi - Indian Stir fry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • A pre-cooked, primary ingredient – see Notes below
  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Jalapeno chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of the curry powder of your choice
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ a green pepper, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
  • ½ a red pepper, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • coconut oil


  • Heat about 2 tbsp of coconut oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick wok.
  • When the oil is up to heat, add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to sputter, stir fry them for a few seconds.
  • Add the onions to the wok. Stir fry the onions until starting to soften, about 5 minutes or so.
  • Add the sliced peppers to the wok. Stir fry for 3 minutes.
  • Add the ginger and chillies. Stir fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, turmeric, curry powder, and garam masala. Stir fry for about 1 minute. Add a splash of water, and stir well.
  • Add the lemon juice and chopped tomatoes. Stir well, and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  • At this point, introduce your principal ingredient to the wok. Stir fry until it is thoroughly re-heated.
  • Serve, liberally garnished with loads of that lovely chopped fresh coriander, and possibly a squeeze of extra lemon juice if you feel so inclined.


  • Allow about 200-250g of your principal ingredient per serving. The principal ingredient should be pre-cooked before you begin to cook the Jalfrezi proper.
  • For best results, the principal ingredient should be cut into bite sized pieces before being tossed into the sauce.
  • The dish shown in the picture above was made using approximately 1kg of good quality beef, which I had earlier cut into little finger sized strips, and then marinated for a short while in about 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of curry powder. The beef was then stir fried in a little coconut oil in a medium hot wok until it had just lost its raw, pink colour, about 3 – 4 minutes or so, before being set aside for use in the actual Jalfrezi later.


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