Aw! Don’t be a dork, pork it out

Rahul Verma | 11 Dec 2015 01:13 PM
In this entire hue-and-cry over beef, one kind of meat has got pushed to the margins – and that’s pork. I have had a long and meaningful relationship with pig products, ever since I ate my first piece of sausage in a hot dog smeared with mustard many moons ago.  Over the years I have eaten pig meat in various forms – as tiny sausages,  spicy chorizos, lean ham, fatty bacon, pork chops, pork belly and what have you. And I always have three little words to describe pork – it is delicious.

Yet, I find that people cutting across religions have strong reservations about pork. Muslims don't eat pork for religious reasons but I know many Hindus who but don’t because they just don’t like pigs. Then there are others who think it is unhealthy – because cured (and not cooked) pork can lead to worms in the brain. Though the jury is still out on this, they also believe that pork is red meat, and therefore harms the system the way, say, lamb does. But experts believe that some leaner cuts are nutritionally like white meat.

I don’t get into that argument – all that I want to stress is that it is one of the tastiest meats you can eat. When we were growing up in Delhi, not too many restaurants served pork. The Chinese restaurants did, of course, and from there I picked up the first dish that I learned to cook – chilli pork (marinate small pork pieces with soy sauce, chilli flakes, chilli sauce and so on. Roll in a bed of cornflour and fry. And then cook in a sauce with chunks of green pepper and onion).

Some years ago, I was amazed to find that several Chinese restaurants in Calcutta did not have beef (or buffalo) and pork on their menu. Why is that, I asked the Chinese-Indian owner of an eatery in Tangra, the city's China town. Because people are suspicious of what they eat; so it’s easier if we don’t put it on the menu, he replied.

In Delhi, I am happy to say, pork is now very readily available in restaurants – and in various forms. In the first place, several outlets which serve northeastern food have come up in recent years, and pork is an important part of their meals. The area around the University of Delhi, where a great many students from the northeast study, is full of small eateries offering pork cooked with bamboo shoot, with green leaves, fermented beans and so on. In south Delhi, notably in the neighbourhood of Hauz Khas, there are some good restaurants that offer you northeastern food. I still fondly remember the pork ribs I had at Rosang Cafe near Uphaar Cinema in Green Park.

Along with northeastern eateries, restaurants have come up in different parts of Delhi which offer pork dishes from various cuisines. The Fatty Bao, for instance, serves juicy Asian baos stuffed with pork. Even small restaurants have pork belly or chops on the menu. And they always make it a point to tell you that the meat is imported. The Belgian pork belly I ate a new restaurant called Uzzuri on Janpath still makes me go all moony-eyed.

I fear that like beef, pork is being given short shrift in some quarters. Sometimes I feel that one has to whisper and ask for pork. And that’s such a pity. And, of course, one can’t ask for beef at all without letting loose trolls of various sizes and shapes.

But to come back to the pork, let me pay homage to the humble animal with this small poem by Ogden Nash. It's called, not surprisingly, The Pig.

The pig, if I am not mistaken;

Supplies us sausage, ham, and bacon.

Let others say his heart is big—

I call it stupid of the pig.

I don't think I agree with the poet. So I am adding my own two bits to the ode:

Let others call him dumb

I think there's nothing like his rump.

 

(The writer, a well know food critic, tries his new speciality on this space: irreverent blogs on food. Email: chuchunverma@gmail.com)

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