It was a cold winter’s morning and Sanjib wanted something that could warm him up a bit. We were at Shillong (the hilly capital town of Meghalaya, north east India, also known as the Scotland of the East), meeting my cousins after a long time, and old memories of sitting around the warm kitchen fireplace haunted me. My borma would get up before everyone else and no matter how early you woke up, she would be there in the kitchen, making her super-soft rotis, which we would have straight from the pan with sticky guava jam, made of course from guavas plucked from the backyard. Time moves on and now the house has become new and big, a beautiful home for the four kids that live there, the kitchen is ultra-modern and my sisters-in-law are now in charge of it. However, what hasn’t changed is the warmth of the place and the lovely meals.
This morning, my cousin suggested that we come with him to a place that makes a super pork stew. We walked down from Motinagar to the Fire Station, and just adjacent to it, opposite the Laimukhrah field, was a gate. Smoke was coming out of the tiny ‘room’ in the compound and everything smelled great. This tiny place, according to my cousin, is so popular that by 10am you could not enter – it was jam-packed. Sanjib without further ado sat down and was immediately served a plate of pork stew, rice, and a couple of chutneys. Here I give you the recipe of that pork stew. It’s extremely simple and according to everyone, it’s out of the world.
Khasi Pork Stew with mustard greens
Pork: ½ kg, cut into 1” pieces
Onions: 1 medium
Garlic: 5 cloves
Turmeric, salt: according to taste
Mustard leaves: two generous handfuls
Heat oil. Add the garlic. Chop the onions and add. Fry till soft. Add the pork. Sprinkle turmeric and salt. Fry for 5 minutes, not longer. Add water or chicken stock. Boil and then let it simmer covered for about 25 minutes. Wash the mustard leaves well and tear them roughly with your hands and add. Continue simmering for about 15 more minutes or till the pork’s done. (The more you simmer, the greater the taste. However, the heat should be very low in case you want to keep it on longer, stock should be ample and the pork shouldn’t ‘melt’ away.)
Serve hot with plain rice with radish salad.
Naga Pork Stew with Lai greens and bamboo shoot
Speaking of pork stews, here’s another great one that was demonstrated to me by my husband. He had a Naga friend who used to make it over a stove in his hostel room in Delhi University. This was so popular that even strangers would barge in with some pretence to get a taste of it. Extremely simple as all our northeastern food is and yes, yummy!
Pork: ½ kg, cut into 1” pieces. Get some pure fat pieces.
Tomato; two, medium
Ginger: 1”, chopped and roughly crushed
Garlic: 2-3 cloves, roughly crushed
Lai leaves (Lai xaak): 1 handful, washed clean
Split Green chillis: 5-6 good hot ones
Bamboo shoot: according to taste (optional)
Fry the fat pieces of the pork. Strain. In the oil given out by this, fry chopped onion, ginger, garlic, chillis. When the onion turns soft, add the remaining pork pieces. Fry for about 5-6 minutes. Add salt. No turmeric. Add water. Put the entire thing in a pressure cooker, and when 1 whistle blows, lower the heat and let it simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Now take it off the heat, remove the pressure and the lid and add the whole tomato. If you are adding bamboo shoot, this is the time to add it. Close the lid again and after one whistle, take it off. Check the seasoning. Take out the tomato, peel and roughly mash it and put it back in. Add the lai xaak, either torn by hand or whole. You can also use spinach instead. Now close the lid and after 1 whistle, lower the heat. Wait for 5-6 whistles on low heat and then take it off. Keep the lid on for about 2 minutes and then open it. Check seasoning. The pork stew is ready!
Note: At all times during the cooking process, as this is done in a pressure cooker, you can add water but you wouldn’t want to lose too much of the flavour so avoid adding water after you add the lai xaak. And do not add too much after the first time.
Assamese Pork stew with Phala Mati Dail
This is something I got from the wonderful book, Ambrosia…from the Assamese Kitchen by Jyoti Das. It’s 100% Assamese and is a unique way of cooking pork! According to the book, this dish is very popular among the Mising and Deori people of Majuli Island. I have modified it a bit to make it more stew-like.
Pork: ½ kg, cut into 1” pieces
Split black gram: 100 gms
Onions: 2 medium, sliced
Ginger: 1”, roughly crushed
Garlic: 4-5 cloves: roughly crushed
Slit Green Chillies: 4-6
Tumeric powder, salt: to taste
Chicken stock: 1 litre, heated up
Soak the black gram (Phala Mati Dail or split unhusked urad dal) for three hours or overnight. Heat the mustard oil. Add sliced onions, stir. Add garlic, ginger and chillies. Stir for 2 minutes till onions turn brown. Add the pork pieces. Stir fry for about 8-10 minutes, till the pieces turn red ad the oil is out. Add the soaked black gram, turmeric powder and salt. Stir well for about 2 minutes. Add the warm stock. Cover ad let it simmer for 15 minutes or till the pork is thoroughly cooked. Serve with plain rice and kharisa.