Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kerala Pork Fry/Olathiyathu

Almost a fortnight ago, on one of my routine calls to home, my mother filled me in on the gathering they had at her brother’s place earlier that day. They were meeting my uncle’s family after several years and my mother was quite delighted to see her nephews and niece after such a long gap. With bursts of excitement, she went on talking about them and how all three of them have blossomed into well seasoned teenagers. Food being the pulse and heart of any such family gatherings, they had prepared a grand feast, to celebrate the family reunion. My mother enumerated an array of dishes that gave serious cravings to my already starved stomach . One of the items in menu was a pork curry and quoting my aunt’s words, my mother happily told me that they bought and prepared that dish knowing well that she loves it! I was touched. I was moved by the fact that they remembered such a tiny detail about my mother’s food preferences, even after such a long span of time. The more and more I thought about my aunt’s remark, I felt it was a beautiful testament to my mother’s porky love!

Yes, she just loves that fatty meaty 'artery clogging' goodness. Growing up, Sunday was the day dedicated for cooking chicken at home but there was some exceptions too. Very rarely, pork would be presented at the table, on days when my mother’s cravings became loud and clear. As a picky fussy teenager, I could never embrace myself to eat the special of the day as the curry always contained lots of fatty chunks and since that was the only wet curry on the table to smear my rice with, I had no option but to ladle some gravy and dig out some pieces without thick slabs of fat. But Mummy would be sitting just across the table devouring each and every slab of fat, “nei-kashanam” in her words, she could lay her hands on and I found it gross those days…I never understood the whole funda behind her fervor but now I have the gastronomic wisdom to know that she has been true pork aficionado.

During her stay here, she feasted her eyes on the beautifully arranged, hunger stimulating display of various cuts of pork meat, sliced and unsliced slabs of bacon, huge loaves of ham, smoked pork shanks and shoulders , sausage links and so on at the supermarkets. Her visits to the Farmers Market and Oktoberfest were never complete with a charred or grilled brat sandwich. I clearly remember that sheepish yet content smile on her face while enjoying slices of ham and sausage links for breakfast at a local breakfast joint here. As I write this , another incident that pops up in my mind is that of my mother forking chunks and chunks of ham into her plate, while prepping her plate ready for cooking, at the Mongolian Barbeque restaurant. Oh, there comes another one, she enjoying ham from the Thanks Giving platter my hospital canteen served. Oh, how can I forget her love for pizza or should I say love for pizza with a double topping of Italian sausage, bacon and pepperoni, considering the fact she despised the chicken tikka pizza we got her from a shopping mall food court near my home in Kerala!!!!

Well, not only does she enjoys pork meat but also good at concocting pork curries and fries or I should say, she knows the right techniques to cook up a pork curry or fry. For instance, the taste maker and flavour enhancer in today’s featured recipe is the pork fat that accumulates on top after pressure cooking. She uses this pork fat to saute onions, instead of regular cooking oil, which explodes the flavours and adds one more tasty layer along with the medley of spices used. Mummy made this pork fry during the last week of their stay here and here’s how she made it.


To Dry Roast & Marinate:
  • Around ¾ kg fatty pork, cubed and washed well
  • 1/3 cup Coriander powder
  • 3 tsp Chilly powder ( As per tolerance)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 small pod of garlic ( or around 8 big ones) , crushed (Adjust as per your liking for garlic)
  • 3-4 inch piece of ginger, crushed
  • Salt to taste
  • ¾ cup water
To Sauté :
  • 3 cups thinly sliced big onion
  • 5-6 green chillies, slit lengthwise
  • 3-4 tsp black pepper powder ( Adjust as per the strength of spice and your tolerance level)
  • 1 + 1 + 1 tsp Homemade Masala powder/Garam Masala
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • Pork fat or 2 -3 tbsp coconut oil for sautéing
  • Heat a small pan over low heat and dry roast coriander powder till brown and remove. Lower heat again and in the same pan, dry roast chilly powder and when the colour darkens a bit, add turmeric powder and stir for a while and remove. Keep stirring while dry roasting ground spices without burning them.
  • Marinate cubed meat with roasted spices, crushed ginger, garlic and salt for about 30 minutes; Add around ¾ cup water and pressure cook until done.
  • Heat a wide pan or mann-chatti/earthenware; pour some of the fat and juice extracted on top after pressure cooking; sauté thinly sliced onions until transparent; you may add some cooking oil if onion is getting dried up and sticking to the pan. At this stage , throw in green chillies and continue to cook until onions are golden brown. Now sprinkle black pepper powder and stir for few seconds and then add 1 tsp Masala powder/Garam Masala and sauté for a minute or two or until a nice aroma comes; now tear off the curry leaves , crush them in your palms and add to masala. Transfer cooked meat from the pressure cooker and add to the masala and let it cook over medium heat for a while, until everything comes together and flavours blend well; towards the middle of cooking add 1 more teaspoon Masala powder/Garam Masala. Let the it simmer, roast slowly dry up in low heat (this process may take about 20-30 minutes depending on the amount of gravy that needs to be dried up) and towards the end of cooking, add 1 more tsp Masala powder/Garam Masala and some more crushed curry leaves, stir well and turn off the stove after 5-6 minutes.
  • Serve with rice or any flat breads of your choice,
Notes: Though optional, adding some potato sticks/cubes fried in oil, towards the end of the cooking , i.e., when meat is almost roasted and gelled well all spices and herbs, add one more layer to the taste. Please make sure that , these fried potato sticks/cubes are in the pan, along with the meat, for about 10-20 minutes, to marry the flavours of meat, spices and herbs.


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