While growing up in Kolkata the only way I got to taste pork was whilst biting into cold meats – often sausages, salami or cooked ham. Back in my day, it was not held very highly in the pecking order of meats.
There is something ambiguous about the taste of all cured meats. Most of the time, my inexperienced palate wouldn’t be able to distinguish between chicken, lamb, beef or pork in cold cuts. Everything tasted flat, nothing ever “popped” in my mouth. Which is why I never quite imagined that in the distant future my heart would flutter at the sight or sound of pork.
My love story with the meat began much later, when I entered my thirties and taught myself to cook with fresh pork. The first fatty piece from a broth like curry I ate, disappeared like a piece of cloud inside my mouth. Over the years I have learnt how to extract the best qualities out of this meat. Honestly, my experiments in the kitchen have been the result of my disdain for what was usually available around me- slightly (or very) sweet pork found in Chinese restaurants or spicy (and acidic) pork available in restaurants serving Goan or East Indian cuisine. In both cases, I realize now in hindsight, I never got to taste the beautiful flesh. Which is why I always let the meat do the talking in the dishes I create.
Personally for me there are no cardinal rules in cooking and there is no such thing as “authentic” in food anymore in this day and age. So take no offence while reading on about some of the things I have done with pork…
Sauteed sweet potatoes play the perfect foil for spicy Goan choriz sausages, soaking up all its acidity. Break an egg on this spicy hash and serve it with mayonnaise mixed with mashed avocado. This makes a beautiful brunch dish.
Coorg Pandi Curry tastes intense with roasted spices and Kachampuli, the local berry vinegar from Coorg. Break this intensity by turning it into a pulao and serve it with a cooling raita.
Spicy Goan choriz sausages are an obvious choice for making Shepherd’s pie. The cheesy potato crust on top is mellow. This is a sharp contrast to the spicy mix beneath.
If you are bored of eating Tibetan pork momos or steamed Chinese dumplings, consider Polish dumplings or “pierogis” flavored with nutmeg and serve it with a side of dilled sour cream (Cover photograph: Polish pork pierogis).
Photograph courtesy: Subhasree Basu