Kept out of most Indian cuisines, except perhaps in Mangalore, Kerala, Goa and the North-East, and distanced from most restaurants, pork has now found a monthly assigned slot in Mumbai. This offering, a practised combination of Goan home-made recipes with influences from Brazil, suggests exploring.
Salt Water Café in Bandra, Mumbai, has decided to give those select few who pig out on pork a chance to discover the meat’s versatility. Group executive chef Gresham Fernandes has used Brazilian recipes with stuff from his mom’s kitchen to provide a confluence of flavours that’s likely to satiate true pork lovers who are not cowed by dietary or calorie restrictions.
“People feel a bit uncertain with pork,” says Fernandes. “We are not doing just loin or tail, etc. When you put it out on a menu, you get few takers. So doing it this way you have a set group, guaranteed 20 people.”
Win win: The vindaloo uses potatoes as a twist.
Swine Dine, as the monthly festival is called, is an evening designed to bring together “like-minded” people, or rather those with similar palates. The dishes on offer during the evening are not part of the daily menu. A recent menu, for instance, included smoked ham, fried pork belly with lime, sage pancakes with pulled pork, vindaloo with prunes, sarpatel and roasted ham legs, among others.
The fried pork belly, which Fernandes says is a regular in Brazilian bars and defines the quality of the eatery, is a popcorn-like crunchy snack on the go which, if cooked well, stays for a week in all its sour robustness. Possibly the best offering is the pork pastelillo, which is chorizo cooked with onion for 1-2 hours and stuffed in a pastry case made of eggs and flour. This samosa variant with its nondescript edges suddenly explodes into a strong spicy centre.
The sage pancakes with pulled pork, with its sweet-sour combination, is a bit of an acquired taste.
Fernandes’ variation of the vindaloo is less spicy than the Goan one and includes potatoes. He adds prunes instead of sugar and a splash of Old Monk rum. The flavours are difficult to identify but in union they are strong, with a powerful hit of red wine vinegar.
“I have used red wine vinegar, the traditional recipe uses palm vinegar. This version is sour sweet on the mellow end, so my mother will not be proud of me,” says Fernandes. “I love it when potatoes soak up the flavour of the pork and the masala... This whole recipe can be made start to finish on one day but the flavours will be one-dimensional and raw,” he adds.
A meal, including unlimited beer and sangria, costs Rs1,500 per head, excluding taxes. For reservations, call 9167727782.