Pork bafat is best enjoyed with Mangalore-style idlis or sannas. Photo: Shireen Sequeira
Pork bafat is to a Mangalorean Catholic what dhansaak is to a Parsi and macher jhol is to a Bengali. Every Mangalorean Catholic swears by it and it is something that is eaten during a celebration or a simple Sunday lunch. In Karnataka, pork (and wild boar before hunting was banned) is greatly relished by the Mangaloreans and Kodavas alike, and each boasts of its own special spice blend that makes each of these preparations stand apart from the rest.
The Mangalorean bafat powder is a blend of spices such as the dried chillies, (a mix of Kashmiri for their bright colour, Byadgi for their characteristic aroma and flavour and Harekala for their spice and flavour), coriander, cumin, peppercorns, turmeric, cloves and cinnamon. This versatile blend can used to prepare a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, from curries to sautes to marinades for fish fries.
Pork bafat is also popularly known as dukra-maas in Konkani (which essentially means pork, but the term is also synonymous with the bafat-style preparation). Every time I dig into a bowl of piping hot pork bafat, I reminisce about the times when I ate it at different homes in my family. Pork that my grandmother and mother make uses the ready spice blend, and is among the best that I have tasted. While their level of spice is always toned down keeping the elderly and kids in mind, I love using the same recipe today with some additional spice as I love its fiery taste. All one needs are a couple of fresh sannas (Mangalorean-style cottony soft idlis prepared by fermenting rice and black gram batter with yeast) to mop up the curry and you will be transported straight to heaven!
My mother-in-law on the other hand prepares the pork bafat using masala that is ground in a large, traditional mortar and pestle called as the 'gatno'. She then cooks the pork in a large earthen pot called as the 'kundlem', simmering it for over 45 minutes to result in a beautiful medley of succulent meat and aromatic spices. A simple Sunday meal consists of pork bafat, boiled red rice, watery dal and a vegetable saute garnished with fresh coconut. A siesta would then follow to add to the simple pleasures of life.
Almost every Mangalorean cook worth his salt, learns to make the pork bafat and those who don't, buy it from home cooks who sell cooked pork and other seasonal delicacies in Mangalore. Their businesses thrive on NRIs who visit Mangalore, and wish to take these goodies back with them, properly packed and frozen, enough to last for the next few months.
If you haven't tried it already, the party season is just the right time to make it. This dish is easy to make and tastes even better the next day.
Recipe for Pork Bafat | Dukra Maas (Serves 4)
1 kg pork (with bone and fat)
3-4 large onions, cut into large cubes
2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
10-12 big cloves or 1 large pod of garlic, peeled and chopped (or if using small cloves, left whole)
2 inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 inch piece stick of cassia bark or cinnamon
2 Indian bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons of bafat powder (adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon thick tamarind extract (or 2 marble size balls of tamarind soaked in 2 tablespoons of warm water and then juice extracted)
1/2 teaspoon of vinegar (adjust to taste)
Salt to taste
1. Cut the meat into medium-small pieces. Take care to see that each piece has a bit of meat and fat on it. Wash and drain well.
2. Transfer the meat to a heavy-based pan or an earthen pot and add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
You may reserve a few onions and garlic cloves to be added during the final 10-12 minutes of cooking but this is optional.
3. Cook the meat on a medium or slow heat till almost done. Stir every now and then. There is no need to add any water as the fat released from the meat and the onions provide sufficient moisture. *see notes
4. When the meat is almost done add the reserved onions and garlic and bring it to another final boil till they turn pale.
5. Serve piping hot with Sanna (Mangalorean idlis/rice cakes) or rice and dal.
1. Indian pork, especially from the home-bred pigs in Mangalore yield the best results as the fat is juicy and the dish turns out fabulous.
If you live abroad and find that the pork you are using doesn't yield sufficient fat, you may add bacon drippings to the pan, a little at a time.
Do sprinkle some water or a tablespoon or two of cooking oil if you feel that the meat needs it.
2. If your tolerance to spice is low, add about 1 tablespoon of bafat powder and increase it as you go. The green chillies can be deseeded before adding but don't skip them altogether.
3. If you don't have readymade bafat powder, make your own small batch for one-time use. Recipe as follows:
Mix together 1 teaspoon of plain red chilli powder (Kashmiri will do) + 3/4th teaspoon of coriander powder + 2 pinches of cumin powder + 2 pinches of pepper powder + 2 pinches of turmeric powder. This is just an approximation. This makes about 2 teaspoons of bafat powder.