Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Indian Pork Curry from Coorg

Coorg in the State of Karnataka
Coorg in the State of Karnataka
Among the many different Indian dishes I tried out last year was this pork curry from Coorg (or Kodagu) - a state in its own right until 1956,when it merged as District in the State of Karnataka (yellow on the map, right) in southwestern India. 

It seems that any time the name "Coorg" comes up, this particular pork dish is connected to it. It is often called Pork Coorg Curry or Pork Pandi Curry. Kodagu is known for rice, coffee and "it's people," according to Wikipedia.

If any of this information above is incorrect, I abjectly apologize. India's politics and states, districts and such are a total maze, and I am no history scholar, much as I love the culture, color and food. But back to this pork dish - it was so delightful. While it is generally served with rice breads (roti), and not a side dish of rice as I served it, the dish was wonderful. I just went to the kitchen to make the rice breads also, so I could have a recipe here for those as well. 
Coorg Pork Curry
Coorg Pork Curry

While the Akki Roti (Rice Breads) I saw online were looking rather pliable, mine were not. They tend to break easily. That does not stop them from being truly delicious, and delightful all on their own. I looked at three different recipes and came to the conclusion that the ingredients are mostly standard:

  • rice flour
    Akki Roti or Rice Breads
    Akki Roti or Rice Breads
  • grated coconut (fresh, though I used dried unsweetened coconut)
  • small red onion (shallot)
  • finely grated carrot
  • chopped green chilies
  • pure red ground chili powder (not the spice mixture for chili con carne)
  • salt
  • cumin seeds
  • cilantro
  • salt
  • water
  • ghee
Among other ingredients I saw added and/or substituted:
All in all, easy enough to make, if you happen to be fairly well stocked in your Indian Staples Pantry. To be fair, I certainly have more Indian spices than the average person. 😀 Meanwhile, I will place the recipes for my versions of Coorg Pork Curry and Akki Roti here below.

Akki Roti

Makes 6 - 8, depending on size 
Akki Roti Dough
Akki Roti Dough

2 cups rice flour
¼ cup finely grated dried, unsweetened coconut
1 - 2 shallots, minced
⅓ to ½ cup finely shredded carrot
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon asafoetida/hing
½ teaspoon  ajwain/carom seeds
½ teaspoon pure dried chili powder
¼ teaspoon  turmeric
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
cup chopped cilantro
¾ to 1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon ghee
more ghee for brushing

In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients. Add in the ghee, melted, and mix ingredients together with fingers, to moisten. Add in the cilantro and mix, then add ¾ cup of the boiling water and stir. The mixture should come together into a sticky ball. If more water is needed, add it a little at a time, until the consistency is reached.
patted on foil - turned into pan - flipped over
       patted on foil                           -                turned out into pan           -            flipped over to finish cooking

Heat a 10-inch skillet on medium to medium low; spray with cooking spray or brush with ghee. Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and form a 3 to 4-inch ball of the dough. Set the dough on the foil and pat out to the thickness of a tortilla, more or less, as desired. Flip the foil with the dough, so it lands onto the hot pan. Gently remove the foil and allow the cake to cook for a minute or so on one side. Flip the cake and brush the top with ghee. After about 30 seconds, flip again and brush opposite side with ghee. Flip so the nicer side is upwards and slide onto a plate. Continue until all the dough is used.

Back to the Coorg Pork Curry

My "Coorg" curry doesn't look much like ones shown on the many places internet-wide. Different people use different cooking preparations. Wherever I found my initial recipes to pull ideas from, they used the method of first cooking the pork chunks in water or stock, then mixing them in with the rest of the ingredients (dry masala, wet masala and such) towards the end. Other recipes call for marinating the pork in the dry spices and adding them in to cook once the "wet" ingredients have cooked. And ultimately, the thing that positively "makes" this dish is the "Kachampuli vinegar,"  which adds both a sour note as well as making the dish quite dark.

Coorg Pork Curry
Coorg Pork Curry
What is Kachampuli vinegar, you might ask? Well, it isn't actually a vinegar at all, no more than "pomegranate molasses" is molasses. This vinegar is made from the Kachampuli fruit, Garcinia gummi gutta. It is made by a long slow process of allowing juice to leak out, then slow cooking the juice to a molasses consistency. This may be an over-simplified explanation, but since I can't get it easily here in the US anyway, that will have to do. Obviously, I did not use it in my Coorg Pork Curry. A possible substitute is tamarind, for its sour factor, so this is what I used. Tamarind will in no way "darken" the dish.

As I said, I went with the "cook the meat in water first" method, but am interested in trying the alternate method to compare. Though from a year's remove, I am not sure about how well my memory will be able to "compare." One thing called for is curry leaves, which when I lived in Florida, were easy to obtain from a plant I had growing. Now, way up in the upper mid-west, I no longer have a plant growing in the yard, and had none available when I made the dish. I really missed them, because I love the flavor they give to a dish, so I totally recommend getting some, if at all possible. I later found some, available fresh from Amazon (of course), and they arrived in no time flat. This is the link to the ones I bought, though I cannot offer a guarantee yours will come as quickly or be as fresh as mine. 
Curry Leaves on my plant in Florida
Curry Leaves on my plant in Florida

I popped them straight in the freezer (inside another zip-top bag to keep them fresher longer), where they retain their flavor and smell. Simply allow them a few minutes to come to room temp and they are good as new, for any dish. Many people freak out at freezing, or are unsure. Though they do turn black in the freezer, the flavor and smell remain, and they will often return to dark green when thawed. Do not dry them, because this will make them tasteless and odorless. I've done that, too! 

Okay, with all that out of the way,  the rest of the recipe is not too out there, spice-wise. Fenugreek, turmeric and brown mustard seeds are as exotic as this dish gets, barring the curry leaves and the Kachampuli vinegar. Tamarind is good as a souring note; if you have tamarind paste, use 1 to 3 teaspoons, as per your taste.

Coorg Pork Curry

Serves about 6 to 8
Coorg Pork Curry
Coorg Pork Curry

4 pounds pork shoulder roast
1½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoons black peppercorns
1-inch true cinnamon

1 tablespoon oil
1 to 2 large shallots, quartered
8 to 10 fresh garlic cloves
1½-inches fresh ginger, sliced
10 to 12 curry leaves
1 - 2 hot green chili peppers, chopped
a handful of cilantro
½ cup pork stock

1 tablespoon oil
¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
hot chili in powder, to taste
6 - 7 more curry leaves, optional
1 - 2 teaspoons tamarind paste

Cut the pork roast into 3 inch chunks and cover with water in a large pot. Add in the 1½ teaspoons salt and cook the pork about 40 minutes or until nearly tender. Remove pork to a plate and reserve stock.

While pork is cooking, place the dry masala spices into a hot, dry skillet and toast them, stirring constantly so as not to burn, until very fragrant. Pour the spices out onto a plate to cool slightly, then grind them to a powder in a spice grinder. Set aside.

Make the wet masala: Heat a large skillet and add in the oil. Once shimmering, add the shallots and toss frequently, until they begin to brown. Add in the garlic, ginger curry leaves and green chilies and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until softened and very fragrant. Pour these ingredients into a blender container, adding in the cilantro and ½ cup of pork stock from the pot the pork was cooked in. Blend to a paste. 

Wipe out the skillet used for the wet masala and add in the 1 tablespoon of oil for the finish of the dish. Add in the ¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds and stir until they begin to splutter and pop. Add in the reserved ground dry masala mixture with the turmeric and stir briefly to heat through. Add in the wet masala mixture from the blender container, with a teaspoon of salt and the hot chili powder if using. Set the pieces of pork into this mixture and stir to coat. Cover and simmer until the pork is tender, about 30 minutes. Add in the 6 - 7 curry leaves and tamarind paste if using, and stir well.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.