Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pork Bafat(Mangalorean Pork Masala)

This is yet another presentation to our viewers for Christmas. I have been waiting to make this curry specially for Christmas and update the recipe since long. This traditional dish is easy to prepare but there's a long story behind it. Please read on if my story interests you. Otherwise just follow the recipe and enjoy the presentation!
Mangalorean traditional food has many delicacies. If Daalithove, Bibbe Upkari and Pineapple Mango Saasam are significant popular dishes of GSB feast, Bunts have Kori Rotti and Sukkha. Likewise Muslims have Biryani and Chicken Fry and Catholics have the inimitable Pork Bafat and Sannas. 
Mangalorean Catholics are Konkani Christians. They have several feasts in a year when they cook Pork Bafat as one of the main dishes. Sannas are soft spongy idlis made with rice and urad daal batter fermented essentially with Toddy but they also make them adding yeast. Sanna is the right accompaniment with pork bafat. Sometimes, we may also find aapams or string hoppers served along with sannas at feasts. Christian caterers like M D'Souza, Patrao and Jillu's cook finely chopped pork with the masala in a big vessel on slow wood fire and make it delectable. Today, leading caterers from other faiths, such as Quality Akshaya and Kamath also cater pork bafat for Christian Weddings and functions.

Pork Bafat is somewhat like its Goan cousin Sorpotel but Mangalorean Catholics make it better with three major ingredients, Dukra Maas(pork meat), Shindaap(Chopped onions, bay leaf, garlic, ginger and green chillies) and the spicy aromatic masala powder called 'Bafat Powder'. This powder is traditionally prepared at homes in rural places but now a days we get excellent commercial Bafat powder in a number of brands. Among these brands Bon, Boston and Aruna Bafat powder are very popular and they have the right blend of chillies and spices in them. This powder is a mixture of roasted spices like Coriander, Cumin, Pepper, Mustard, Turmeric and Chillies. The blood collected while butchering the pig is dried in an iron kadai and that is also added in calculated portion while cooking Pork Bafat traditionally, but of late that is not so commonly followed in cities where people from other faiths also relish the dish.

Now I am from a GSB family, not a non vegetarian by birth. Till the age of 17, I was not even eating eggs or fish. We lived in a house owned by Jains from 1958 to 1974 where we were allowed only to cook and eat vegetarian food. Yet, we had a few Catholic neighbours who sometimes used to invite me for functions or for Christmas parties. I was hesitant to attend them and used to avoid them, fearing being taken to task by my parents! I however, used to get fascinated by the description of Dukra Maas and Sanna by my GSB friends Ananth or Ramesh, who were liberated during their early age because of their orientation among Catholic households.

By mid Seventies, I was a non vegetarian habitually. My friend Ronald Pinto got a job in Bank in 1976 and he being very close to me told me that he wants to host me dinner at William Pereira's Hotel. I was thrilled that I can taste some Catholic delicacies there! He ordered beer, some fried fish and mutton fry with sannas for me and pork bafat and sannas for himself. The mutton was very tough and I was struggling to chew that! Then I asked him if I can try some of the pork from his share. He offered that, saying he was apprehensive that I was not used to eating pork meat. I relished that well and he ordered one more plate of that before we left the hotel!

That was the first time I tasted this fantastic dish. Later in 1978, I was on a trip to Mumbai where I met my friend Alwyn Vaz who was working at Hofkin's Institute and staying in a mess in Byculla. There with him I had lunch over pork bafat and paav bread along with mackerel fried. The cook was a Mangalorean and he treated us well. He was happy to see a Konkana(That's what Mangaloren Catholics call us GSBs) relishing dukra maas and he served me the best portion of meat!

Then of course there were many parties, festivals and family functions where I got a chance to eat pork bafat. An ex-serviceman by name Pinto, who was attender in the Bank I was working for and residing in Mysooru near my room, used to make this dish when we had monthly parties at his home with other 2-3 close colleagues. He also used to collect the fat from cooked pork and fry fish with that, saying that's the best suited fat for frying fish! Back in Bengaluru, my colleague Olivia used to invite me home for Christmas and Easter if not for her daughter's birthday party and treat me with this delicacy with home made sannas.

My liberal views have earned me many friends from all faiths and they always look out for my feed back about the preparation. If I eat their food and certify that it's well made, they are happy. I feel good that same feelings continued among my Mangalorean Catholic friends about the taste of pork dishes at the restaurants they recommended and also about the quality of raw meat sold by a few private vendors. I met Jason Rego in the late Eighties when I was working in Bunder branch of the Bank I was working for. He recommended a place near Hotel Moti Mahal on Falnir Road behind a garage, where a guy named Robert sold good pork meat, obtained from farm bred pigs in hygienic condition, far superior as against the country pig meat usually sold in the market. Country pigs are tasty but they carry tapeworm which is dangerous to humans. By late Eighties I was married and settled down, started cooking pork at home. Robert's pork was indeed very good, but he used to make me wait in queue for a long time, and he sold meat only on Sunday mornings when regulars swarmed the place after church mass. I bought pork once a month at the most, and was not a good customer for him! Sometimes he talked sweet but gave slightly tougher meat. 

Then my friend Dr Prakash Shetty said, Saldore Cold Storage has excellent pork available on almost all the days. Tried there as well but the  second and third experiences were pretty bad for me. Then the scenario shifted to Venus Bakery in Kankanady from where I purchased pork meat for some time. After we shifted home to North Mangalore, a family friend Margaret Sequeira recommended a shop in Kadri Market and the guy had better meat in stock at his home in Padua Hills. I met my Coorgi colleague MA Venu in Bejai where I was working from 1996 to 1999. He said, Jimmy's Supermarket and a guy in Kadri Shivbagh near Ruby Supermarket sold very good pork. I tried all those places and today, Isaac, owner of Roshni Stores in Urva Stores behind Kavitha Residency provides excellent fresh farm pig meat with very thin layer of fat on weekends and on festival days. 
Pork bafat is prepared well in a number of restaurants as well. William Pereiras' and Annella(Now non existent) in Hampankatta, Mangala in Valencia, Dolphin in Kadri Shivbagh, Hollywood and Costa in Kankanady and Sweekar in Urva Stores are a few memorable places where I have tasted very good pork bafat. I have also tasted this dish at the famous Toddy Shop in Baithurli near Kulshekhar. By all standards, the best pork bafat I ever tasted was in a small joint at melkar in Panemangalore back in the mid Nineties. I was attending the wedding of my friend Nanyappa at Sumangali Hall in Panemangalore and couple of common friends said, let's go and have a drink. At Melkar they found a wine shop  and I saw the toddy joint in the same building, run by a Cartholic chap. I preferred to consume toddy as we don't get good toddy in Mangaluru and it was afternoon, when I avoided hard liquor. There that guy served the best pork bafat that I ever consumed outside. The masala, the smell of fresh bay leaf and the properly cooked meat made me go for at least 2 servings!

Today, I make this dish just once or twice a year, as I also make Coorgi Pandi Curry and Chinese Chilli Pork sometimes. The other day I asked Isaac if he still gets the same good quality pork meat. He nodded his head and what I got this time is extremely good. Clean and tender, pink flesh and very thin layer of fat. That's exactly how a good meat should be. Of course Catholics like some thick layer of fat(lard) and make the dish rich. I prefer it more spicy, more tangy and with lots of bay fresh bay leaf. You may reduce the amount of chillies and bafat masala to suit your taste. Make this today and taste this tomorrow, That way all the masalas permeate into the meat and make it more tasty. Prepared in an earthen pot enhances the flavour of the dish. 

Some years ago, Sannas were available in bulk at a famous canteen near Padua High School. Their quality went down over the years and we stopped buying them from there. We tried making them at home sometimes adding toddy or yeast, but the results were not very encouraging. Meena makes spongy idlis with Mallige Idli recipe, that comes out well and goes well with Pork Bafat and Pandi Curry. Very good spongy home made sannas are commercially available at Roshni Store for Rs.3/- each and we don't take the trouble to make them at home.

Enjoy Pork bafat with sannas. Merry Christmas, happy cooking!
Pork meat - 1Kg cut into 1/2" chunks
Onions(Preferably red baby onions) - 300Gms cut into small cubes
Garlic - 20-25 cloves slit lengthwise and peeled
Ginger - 3" piece sliced thin
Green Chillies - 10-12 cut into round pieces
Fresh Bay Leaf - 2 cut into two
Rock Salt crystals - 2 Tsp(Or table salt according to taste)
Bafat Powder - 30Gms(2 Tbsp)
Kashmiri Chilli Powder(Optional) - 1 Tsp
Tamarind - Lemon size ball extracted in 2 Tbsp water
Vinegar - 1 Tbsp

Wash the pork chunks thoroughly and drain.
Heat an earthen pot or a thick bottomed pan.
Transfer the pork chunks into that.
Add the shindaap(cut veggies), Bafat Powder and salt.
Add tamarind extract, little water and bring to a boil.
Cover and cook for 30-45 mins or till the meat is tender.
Add optional Kashmiri chilli powder(For that deep Red colour) and cook for another 5-10 mins.
Add vinegar, mix well, check for salt and switch off the flame.
Serve hot with sannas, aapams, string hoppers or bread. 
This curry is best eaten after a few hours when all the masalas, salt and tang get infiltrated into the meat.

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