January 27 2012, 3 AM
I had declined both meals in the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai, prompting the stewardess to ask if I was all right. Sure, I was all right. I was just following my friend Jasbir’s instrucions to eat “at subsistence level only” on the flight, so that when I arrived at his house in Mumbai, I would be able to do full justice to “the meal”.
Jasbir is an obsessive guy. whatever he does, he does it with a huge amount of interest and passion. So, I was not surprised by what was waiting for me at 3 AM when we got to his house from the airport.
He had decided to make pandhi curry, a pork dish from the Coorg region in Karanataka state. It is traditionally made with wild boar in Coorg and is flavored with a very exotic ingredient: a vinegar made from a tropical fruit called kachampuli. Now, outside of Coorg, pandhi curry is virtually unknown in India, except to the most serious foodies. Enter Jasbir. He had somehow procured the recipe for Pandhi curry and a bottle of kachampuli vinegar from one of his trips to Coorg. The vinegar had a syrupy consistency, like an aged balsamic, and a smoky, complex flavor.
As if that was not impressive, he had also made kadambuttu, steamed dumplings made from “cream of rice”, that are served with Pandhi Curry in Coorg. Whoa, I was blown away.
Both the curry and the dumplings were executed to perfection. The curry had a dark, complex smokiness to it with the distinct tang of the kachampuli vinegar. Amazing. The dumplings were soft, fluffy and the perfect conveyance for the curry.
We ate until 5 am in the morning.
Pandhi Curry (Coorgi Pork Curry)
- 2 lb pork shoulder, cubed
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/2” piece of fresh ginger
- 1 tsp cayenne powder
- 2 tbsp kachampuli vinegar or equivalent amount of tamarind juice made from concentrate
- 5 green chilies
- 4 medium onions
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- salt to taste
Roast and powder finely:
- 1tbsp. Coriander seeds
- ½ tsp. Mustard seeds
- 2 tsp. Cumin seeds
- 2 tsps. Peppercorns
- Smear pork with turmeric, cayenne powder and salt.
- Grind the green chillies, onions, ginger and garlic coarsely.
- Put the meat in a wok or a large pan with the ground masala and a cup of hot water.
- Slowly bring it to a boil and then let it simmer slowly for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add the powdered masalas, stir and continue to cook.
- When well cooked, add the vinegar or tamarind juice and remove from the fire. Let it rest.
- There should be a dark, thick, clingy sauce for the curry
Serve with plain rice or sourdough rolls.