A day forever
There’s Goan pork vindaloo, and then there’s the East Indian version. It requires less prep time but tastes, well, friggin’ great. The p. vindaloo I make is not the pure E. Indian way. It’s more of a marriage between E. Indian and Goan cooking. Not a new concept to me at all. No sirree, Bob! You see my sister, Milly, is married to an E. Indian. Good old Neil Murzello. I have to be a mutant to be able to count on four score seven fingers to list the number of occasions I’ve stumbled out of Neil’s Dadar appartment replete with Aunty Joyce’s (Neil’s ma; God bless her soul) smorgasbord of East Indian delights. And since this is a roll call of East Indian cooks whose food I’ve been fortunate to masticate, I’ll mention Neil’s sisters, Bella and Lolla.
Like there’s a Goan way to excessively celebrate life, there’s an East Indian way that runs along similar lines and truly boggles the senses (sure, the Punjabis, too, can throw one hell of a bash; but I could really appreciate it only if was born Tejinder a.k.a. Tony as opposed to Anthony a.k.a Tony). Take one nos. party at Neil’s place. Mid-helloing and air kissing, Judy (Neil’s bro, Jude) offers me a drink a tad shy of Thums Up and well stocked with my main man, Old Monk. The air is thick with the aroma of fine foods, Wills’ cigarette smoke (to which I’m contributing mushrooms of; note: I’m all of 17 callow years; yeah, yeah, screw the effing lecture on under-legal-age exposure to some of the good things in life) and, what I find such an endearing term, non-veg. jokes. To see Judy do the one which involves an empty rum bottle, matchbox, a priest, a virgin and a confessional, is to have laughed with the Gods. Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock eat your heart out. With Sunny and Kiki and Tyrone alternating on acoustic guitar, Baba and Neil belting out S&G, my mum and aunts: Artemis, Marilyn, Philomena, Armine and uncles: Agustine, Pelegrino, Francis and Francis, and my dad sotto voce warbling mournful Konkani songs, and teeny, brave Shaista, Sunny’s daughter, piping a sweet song or two, junta as chorus chipping in with a line or two, time passed by in a joyous blur.
Liquor flowed like water, peals of laughter competed with the output from Neil’s Cosmic sound system, ribald jokes occupied centrestage only to be ousted by songs like ‘Olle momme, I don’t want, Dakte momme I don’t want…’ (won’t translate, pal; find yourself a slap-up Goan+East Indian party to really get into its groove) and the food, glorious food.
My life has been blessed with the presence of East Indians far too many or far too precious to mention. Some that immediately spring to mind are Uncle Condrad, Neil’s dad (God bless his soul), just shy of 90 then, he’d chomp on Flair cigarettes, if I remember his brand correctly, like mints; Biresh, Sunny’s son, now a young man but back then I remember him as a kid, coming into the hall clad in undees and a belt, pulling lethal wrestling moves on me a la his idol Papa Shango; Neil, my brother-in-law and teller of tales; and to stray beyond family, Mario, colleague at erstwhile Madco (cesspit in advertising agency hell; most of the times, at least), who generously shared precious sent-all-the-way-from-back-home tongue sandwiches with me; the same Mario who pushed a 50-year-old birthday celebrant over the edge with an immortal quip: Congratulations ____, one more step closer to the grave; and for a phrase I use every now and then, one that he always used to say after lunch: The Lord be praised, My belly’s been raised; and to return back to family, East Indian newcomers to the clan, my cousin Jack’s missus Adelcyia and her zany brother Addison and her compassionate mother, the gentlest soul I’ve ever come across after my mother, and her grandmother whose fabled masalas accompanied me to Toronto, from which this recipe has sprung to life, and OJ.
From Kabutarkhana, Dadar to Hill Road, Bandra to I.C. Colony, Borivali to Vashind, East Indian enclave and small town located on the bank of the Bhatsa river, I have been charmed and have mightly fallen in love with all my heart with East Indians and their way of life. To my East Indian friends and family: Deo boren korun.*
1 kg pork (boneless; with fatty part intact; cubed)
2-3 tsps East Indian vindaloo masala
1tbsp oil 2 medium onions (chopped fine)
2 tsps ginger-garlic paste
2 green chillies (slit lengthways)
Tamarind (lemon-sized, kept in hot water, squeezed and juice drained through sieve)
Salt to taste
Marinate pork overnight in the vindaloo masala (please to refrigerate).
Remove prior to cooking to bring to room temperature.
In a large pot, heat oil on a medium flame.
Fry onions till translucent.
Next, add the ginger-garlic paste.
Stir around; give it a minute.
Add the pork.
Let the pork get browned; stir occasionally so pieces on top get to kiss the hot bottom of the pot.
When pork nicely browned, put in boiling hot water.
Stop when the meat is covered.
Cover the pot and let the meat cook on a low flame till the water almost disappears.
Then, add chillies, tamarind juice, sugar and salt.
Put the three ingredients a bit at a time checking the taste as you go along.
Stop when it tastes right or when an enlisted taster (recommended) gives seasoning the go-ahead (chances are, like me, you’d be down a couple of beers and a few shots of feni by then; Don’t Drink And Drive is well and good but I haven’t seen any ads for Don’t Drink And Cook; Praise The Lord!).
Stir everything around.
At this stage if the water has totally dried up, I add a little water to help the seasoning coat everything.
Then, with flame on simmer, lid back on, let the meat cook till tender, moist and inviting.
Steamed rice or pau.
Both good choices.
* Konkani for ‘God do you good.’