Safe from the maniacal drivers out to kill someone, I leaned on the counter of the Lusitania Cold Storage in Frazer Town’s Mosque Road and contemplated the surviving glories of my old hometown- turned-technopolis.
I was on an avenue so shaded by canopies of old rain trees that the sun had not touched the ground here for decades. I was in a traditional yet tolerant area so removed from north India’s aggressive monoculture that even in these divisive times, old Lusitania had never been remotely threatened for selling pork about 50m from a mosque or beef in a city that is home to some of Hinduism’s most orthodox communities. I was at an establishment where the kindly 50-something proprietor, a handsome woman in a skirt and cropped hair, never failed to smile when a client caught her eye, and no one left without a smile and a thank you. Only in Bangalore.
Stirring memories: (top) There are many Hindu cuisines that use pork extensively; and the author’s recipe of a pork pickle is an adaptation of a Coorgi recipe. Photographs by Samar Halarnkar
I pondered Lusitania’s various handwritten offerings, posted on scribble boards behind the counter. Should I buy the fish cutlet? The beef rump (Kerala cut)? The ready-to-eat roast beef? The “authentic” Goa sausages? The ox tongue, perhaps?
My mother had sent me to buy pork, so I first got that done. One and a half kilograms of pork, she had said, with some fat. The woman behind the counter—dressed in a scarlet sari and khaki overalls, red bindi on her forehead—knew what some fat meant. Quietly, she handed me packets of precut, washed and neatly packaged pork. Could I have 100g of extra fat? Sorry, said the woman. Many of our employees are Muslim, so we don’t directly handle pork any longer. Change was here, but it was remarkable that Hindus and Muslims worked with the packets of pork and beef. Only in Bangalore.
Pork purchase done, I could now happily browse through all the goodies I did not need but could not resist.
Also Read Samar’s previous Lounge columns
Ready-to-eat roast beef slices?
Pack it, please.
Chavady’s chicken pickle, “wickedly hot and spicy, made from an old Indian family recipe, hand-made with love and affection”.
Pack it, please.
Jeevith instant roasted “world-class” pork masala (ingredients: “chillies, coriander, pepper, ginger, clove, cardamom, cinnamon bark, cumin seeds, ananus flower, nutmeg, turmeric, salt, Om [don’t ask], curry leaves and LOVE”).
Pack it, please!
And so I trudged happily to my parents’ home in Richards’ Town, past the restaurant offering appam and brain curry; past the little house offering home-made prawn pickles; past the Iyengar bakery offering freshly baked bread, toasted and topped with a lashing of stir-fried onions and tomatoes; past the Tamilian old-timer on the pavement near my house, offering 11 types of dried fish. Only in Bangalore.
Bangalore may be part of the flat world, adding value to the Intels and Ciscos globally, but it’s managed to retain its accommodating, liberal and wildly diverse culinary offerings. This is how pork pickle has been so much a part of my life since the 1970s, when my mother first adapted a Coorgi Hindu recipe (I say Hindu because there are many in modern India who do not realize how many Hindus eat pork in the south; travel across south Karnataka, Gowda country, and you cannot miss the piggeries, marked with gaily painted little porkers).
Wherever I’ve been, my mother has always sent me a bottle of pork pickle to keep my body and soul together. This bottle has seen me through some arid, desperate years in chicken-and-dal-happy Delhi. I always have—always—a bottle of her pork pickle tucked away in the recesses of my fridge.
This time in Bangalore, I realized I didn’t actually know how to make the family’s famed pork pickle, so I persuaded my mother to guide me through the process. If you have modifications and a similar pickle of your own, do let me know, either on my blog or at the email below. Stop me from saying, only in Bangalore!
Mummy’s pork pickle
1kg pork, cut into K-inch to 1-inch pieces
For the masala
1K tbsp chilli powder
2 pods garlic
2-inch piece ginger
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp mustard
K bottle synthetic vinegar (we used a 750ml bottle)
For the seasoning
4 tbsp cooking oil
K tsp mustard
1 pod garlic
1-inch piece ginger juliennes
10-12 green chillies slit lengthwise, with seeds
Prick the pieces of fat, fry in a saucepan till the fat starts to melt. Remove. In the fat, fry the rest of the pork till it starts to brown. Cook all the pork (including fat) in a pressure cooker for about 7 minutes, with salt but without water. Meanwhile, using 4 tbsp of vinegar, grind the masala ingredients into a fine paste (my mum’s original recipe says “make sure the grinding stone is absolutely dry, then coat it with a little vinegar”; we used a food processor).
Heat the oil. Add all the seasoning ingredients and the ground masala. Fry until brown. Add the rest of the vinegar and then the cooked pork. Simmer till oil starts to float and remove from fire.
Cool and bottle. Make sure the bottle is dry and has a wide mouth. We cover it with plastic before closing. Use only dry spoons. You can store the pickle outside for a week in temperate weather, but we usually bung it into the fridge soonest.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at Htblogs.com . He is editor-at-large, Hindustan Times.
Write to Samar at email@example.com