Using the Pork Balchao recipe in the 500 Indian Recipes book I picked up for $5 several months ago while waiting for the Dr. to show up for our date, I satisfied a spicy curry craving I was having. Balchao is a spice mix from Goa in which spices are mixed with vinegar and sugar for a spicy-sour-sweet flavor. It’s popular for pickling fish and prawns–I assume to keep before the time of refrigerators–and was brought by those colonizing Portuguese to India’s coastal town.
Pork cubes or stew meat are good for this recipe. I had bought a shoulder thinking I was going to make tacos for the weekend, but changed my mind and ended up slicing the meat off the large bone. There was no harm in stewing the bone with the meat–it just added flavor to the sauce. Boil 2 cups of chicken broth in a separate pot and throw in 2 cups of couscous while you’re at it if you can’t get your hands on some fresh nan.
Also, starting with this post, I have re-ordered the way I list ingredients. They used to be by what I deemed as main ingredients first, down to the seasonings; now they are ordered by when in the process they are used. I realized I was always grouping ingredients in recipes I am inspired by with their coinciding steps–this way, I hope you prep the ingredients in the same order, too. I’ve also included water when needed, something I also skipped because I assumed kitchens always have a sink, but it helps with your mise en place.
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 knob of ginger, peeled, crushed
4 pieces dried chiles
1 short cinnamon stick
2 tbsps cumin
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 red onion, sliced thinly
half of a pork shoulder, chop in chunks
2 beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsps turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup of warm water
4 fresh curry leaves, optional
1 tbsp white sugar
a couple of splashes of cider vinegar
1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush together chiles, cinnamon, clove, cumin and peppercorns. Set aside.
2. In a large Dutch oven, heat some oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until garlic is browning a bit. Add the crushed spices and fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
3. Add half of the onions and sautÃ© for another 30 seconds. Then add the pork, tomatoes, turmeric and chili powder. Mix to combine everything well. Add water and lower the fire to a simmer.
4. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, with some ocassional stirring, until pork pieces are tender.
5. Using a small skillet, heat a little oil and fry the rest of the onions with curry leaves, if using. Set aside on a plate lined with paper towel.
6. When pork is almost done, stir in sugar and vinegar with some salt to taste. Add a splash of water if it’s too spicy. Simmer for the last 5 minutes just to combine all the flavors.
7. Ladle in shallow bowls and top with fried onions and curry leaves. Serve with rice, couscous or fresh nan.