Curried pig and I: Part Two

by Gautam Raja

Continued from Part One.

This little piggy went to market.
Trad.

Many Indian dishes, made the long way, involve toasting whole spices until fragrant and then grinding them. For pandhi curry though, you take those whole spices and torture them until they’re all black and nearly burned. Then you make a wet mixture of the sharpest tools in the vegetable bin (onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies and coriander leaves), you slow-cook the lot with some fatty pork and then you top it off with kachampuli vinegar.

Kachampuli… nobody seems to know the English equivalent, and I’ve never actually seen the berry so I’m wondering if this “vinegar” is just battery acid with molasses for colour. Don’t get me wrong though, kachampuli vinegar has a wonderful, complex flavour. If you’re thinking, “Ah, like balsamic?” you should know that kachampuli is balsamic vinegar that fell into radioactive sludge as a baby, grew up in maximum-security prison and got a job skinning skunks alive. It is the sourest thing I have ever tasted. And this is coming from a guy who used to champ on, not green mangoes… green tamarind as a child. (If you’re above 20 years old and can get through three inches—heck, one bite—of green tamarind without your salivary glands exploding, I’ll touch your feet.)

I once tried to be a smart arse and use kachampuli in salad dressing. I used less than half a teaspoon for a giant bowl of lettuce, and had to throw the lot out because just touching it with a fork made my teeth sing the Hallelujah Chorus. (In key as well, with all the right harmonies. The molars sang bass of course, the pre-molars tenor, the incisors were altos and the canines… I’ll stop now.)

Anway, so there you have it. Nearly burned spices: a deep, dark sub-base note. Base notes of fried onion, ginger and garlic. Heart notes of green: chillies and coriander leaves. That keening top note of kachampuli. Pandhi curry is a very accomplished dish. Not the sort of accomplished dish that stains a large square white plate that you chat languidly over, but the sort of accomplished dish that makes you weep and stumble for the door, totally disorientated after just one bite. Then, you stick your head in the horse trough outside, and stagger back in for more.

Part Three