From crispy bacon to spicy Kodava pork curry, the potential for mouth-watering pork dishes is endless. Recently, though, pork has been in the news for less delicious reasons. In Mizoram, scores of pigs have been dying of African Swine Fever (ASF), and thousands have been culled to prevent further spread. The virus cannot be transmitted to humans through infected pork, but it can survive for months in infected meat products not cooked at adequate temperatures. Lounge spoke to chefs to find out the best way to keep enjoying pork.
BOIL THE PORK FIRST: JOSIE PARIS RENTHLEI
Mumbai-based chef and costume designer Josie Paris Renthlei hosts food pop-ups on her Instagram handle, Josie’s Kitchen, with the aim of creating a community that can share stories about food. Renthlei is originally from Mizoram and her most recent event, ‘Pork From the Hills’ featured dishes from the region. On the menu were dishes like Naga-style pork with axone and pork with black sesame seeds. She first boils the meat to get rid of any germs. “I don’t like high-heat cooking so after boiling, I usually cook on a very low flame,” she says. “It takes a little longer, but the meat cooks nicely. I fry the pork a little bit and I don’t use any refined oil. I use the fat from the meat and then I add ginger-garlic or onions.”
Renthlei’s clients love her pork with dry bamboo shoots. An easy recipe she suggests for those cooking pork or food from the north-east for the first time is frying the pork with potatoes and beans with a little turmeric and salt. “In the Northeast we don’t use too much masala. We just use turmeric or chili powder… everything is fresh,” she says.
COOK AT OVER 100-DEGREES: GAUTAM KRISHNANKUTTY
Bengaluru-based chef Gautam Krishnankutty, who used to run the city’s popular restaurants chains Thulp and Asia in a Box, has a lot of experience cooking pork. “I started life as a Thai chef cooking Southeast Asian food so I generally gravitate towards that. My favourite pork recipes are Char Siu pork and smoked pork shoulder.” His recommendation to cook the meat safely is to “bring your pork to over one hundred degrees centigrade because there's no germ that can survive that.”
He also has experience curing meats from his days at The Smoke Co. “The restaurant served Southern American food like barbecued pork and other meats, as well as charcuterie, which is European tradition of curing meat,” he says. The process of curing needs to be done with high levels of hygiene, and involves using salt to keep the bacteria away and herbs like thyme for flavour.