Goan food is rightly called a melting pot of different cuisines, thanks to all the flavours, styles and culinary techniques borrowed from several cultures both native and western. Portuguese are credited for influencing Goan cuisine over the course of the 400 years of colonisation, but many of the dishes they introduced into India were not strictly of Portuguese origin. One such dish is Sorpotel; the popular Goan pork curry was originally an African slave community staple in Brazil known as ‘sarpatel’, the name translates to confusion. This moniker is expressive of the ingredients used in the dish—offal such as pork heart, liver and even blood. Chef Silvanus, Chef de Partie at Le Méridien Goa, Calangute helps us dig deeper.
“Originally relished by African slaves in Brazil, the sorpotel was a spicy dish made using offal—the tail, ear, intestines and tongue of a pig, and occasionally blood,” he says. The Portuguese immediately took to liking this dish, and carried it along with them to India. What came to India was the Portuguese version, which the native Goans went on to make their own. “The differences in the African and Goan versions are subtle and as most of our culinary traditions have been orally passed down, there is no fool-proof way to pick threadbare the differences in the dish. However, use of ingredients like tamarind to induce sourness is proof that the Goans experimented with ingredients to make the sorpotel more local.”
Silvanus continues, “Goans were among the early adopters to have embraced a variety of meats, owing to the strong Portuguese influence. Pork Cabidela is another Goan dish that uses pork blood as its key ingredients.” This dish has its roots in the Portuguese colony of Macao.
While sorpotel is not an easy dish to master, it’s not impossible and can be made by almost anyone. The proportions of the spices and condiments used may vary, however, ginger, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, red chillies, peppercorns, garlic and vinegar are what typically help add to the drama of tastes.
Chef Silvanus shares his pork sorpotel recipe with us:
For the Masala Paste:
20 dried Kashmiri chillies
3-inch fresh ginger
20 garlic cloves
15 black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
3-inch cinnamon stick
1 cup coconut vinegar or regular kitchen vinegar
1/2 cup oil
6 green chillies, finely chopped
4 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
30 ml feni (coconut or cashew)
A pinch of salt
500 gms pork liver
2 tablespoons pork fat
1/4 cup pork blood 250 gms pork heart/kidney/tongue (any offal of your choice)
1. Take a pot and place your cleaned pork into it. To that, add sliced onions, slit green chillies and two cups of water. On medium heat, let the pork parboil for about 20 minutes or until meat is tender. Make sure you cover the pot to ensure that the meat cooks fast.
2. To make the paste, throw in the Kashmiri chillies, fresh ginger root, garlic cloves, black pepper, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick, vinegar and oil into a blender. You may have to add a few tablespoons on water to blend into a smooth paste. Keep aside.
3. Once the meat is tender, dice into fine pieces including the fat; it is the fat that gives sorpotel an additional flavour. Don’t throw away the stock it’ll be used later on.
4. Heat a pan and fry your diced pork pieces, in batches, till they get some colour. Next, heat up a big pot and fry the chopped green chillies and onions until they turn golden brown.
5. Add the cooked meat to the fried chillies and onions, and stir fry for around two minutes. Add in the masala mixture and salt together with the meat stock and feni.
6. Mix it all well and bring to a boil. Allow the sorpotel to simmer while stirring continuously so as to avoid the gravy from sticking to the pot. Once it thickens, turn down the heat and keep aside.
As sorpotel is one of those rare dishes that tastes better as it gets older, heat it over the next few day for about 20 minutes. It’s best served on the third or fourth day, after it has been warmed up at least once during the course of the wait. Best served alongside some sannas, Goan poi or rice.
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