Beyond Curry: Pork Sorpotel (Goan Pork Offal Stew)

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Prasanna Sankhe

It might surprise some to learn that the Portuguese left behind quite the delicious culinary legacy in India. One that is still lovingly continued in Catholic Indian homes across the country. Besides the chili and the potato, they introduced the native population to a range of pork dishes that have become regular fare at Sunday lunches and important Catholic festivals in the country. The Goans, Mangaloreans, and East Indian Catholics of India continue to make a flavorful Portuguese dish called Pork Sorpotel. What I love about this dish, apart from its unique taste, is the fact that it has become an indelible positive imprint of Portugal's colonization, with Brazil, many thousands of miles away, making the same dish, albeit with a slightly different name—Sarapatel.

Sorpotel is a fiery, tangy dish that originally used offal and blood. In the Indian version, we still use pork liver, heart, and blood (depending on the family's inclination), and add fatty pork. Many families use the offal of their choosing, if one isn't preferred. But I think liver gives it a complex, meaty flavor. Vinegar is another important component. And of course, red chilies are used generously. But the resulting dish isn't mind-numbingly hot. It's a wonderful mix of tangy and spicy that actually tastes even better after a few days. Some homes also add a splash of feni, a local alcohol made from coconuts.

It's important to use ample fat in this dish; as it renders, it adds flavor and forms a seal of sorts on the cooled preparation that preserves it for weeks. It's usually eaten with sannas—spongy, steamed rice cakes that are fermented overnight with the addition of some local toddy, or palm wine.

While cooking this dish, I like to parboil the meat in bigger chunks, so that it doesn't fall apart in the next steps of preparation. Sorpotel is best made a few days in advance, to allow the vinegar and chilies to thoroughly infuse the pork. You can eat it with rice, bread, or even with your morning sunny side up eggs. I've just emerged from making batches of it for hungry friends and family during the holiday season, and the only thing better than preparing it for those you love is settling down to a bowl of it yourself.