Talk about Indian sausages and conversation is most likely to be dominated by paeans to the chouriços de Goa or, more popularly, choris—and not without reason. These unctuous, fiery pork sausages with their delicious tang are outright addictive. The choris might be a colonial bequest, adapted from the Portuguese chouriços, with inspiration from the Spanish chorizo, but its soul is intrinsically Goan.
The choris, however, isn’t the only sausage with a distinctly desi inflection.
The East Indian community, deemed the earliest inhabitants of Mumbai, Thane and Vasai, also learnt the art of sausage-making from the Portuguese. Salt-cured chunks of pork, typically meat from the shoulder and part of the neck, are hand-chopped into finer bits before being marinated with East Indian vindaloo masala—a mix of garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, Kashmiri chillies and local toddy vinegar—overnight. “The spiced meat would then be stuffed into natural gut casing and air-dried. Traditionally, links of sausages would be wrapped around bamboo sticks and hung from the ceiling.” says chef Aloysius Dsilva, who runs the delivery-only kitchen Chef Aloo by Villa Vandre.
In Kolkata, sausage lovers throng the Entally market for fresh, handmade sausages stuffed with a spicy mixture of hand-minced pork and fats, finely chopped onions, fresh coriander, parsley and mint leaves, salt and a special garam masala, a closely guarded secret. The Entally sausages, which enjoy something of a cult status, get their name from the eponymous market in the Entally area; this was once the hub of the city’s Anglo-Indian community, the original patrons of these sausages. “Currently, only one shop, Royal Piggery, sells these handmade sausages but while we were growing up there were at least five shops selling sausages inside the Entally market,” says Anirban Basu, whose family has been relishing the Entally sausages for generations.
In Bengaluru, Radhica and Uttam Muthappa, who run the delivery service Curly Sue Pork, showcase Entally sausages, recreated in their kitchen, on their menu. “A pork-shop staple in Bengaluru,” Radhica says, “are sausages spiced with a piquant green masala made with green chillies and fresh coriander, in addition to the mildly spiced pepper sausages.”
The Muthappas have also re-imagined Coorg’s iconic pandi curry (pork curry) in the form of sausages. “We brew our own Kachampuli vinegar (a prime ingredient in Coorg’s iconic pork curry) and source the spices for the pandi curry masala (a 50-year-old family recipe) that flavours these sausages from Coorg,” says Radhica.
Sausages, especially blood sausages, are also part of the culinary culture across the Himalayan belt. The tradition there is embedded in the larger ethos of minimising wastage and preserving food for leaner periods. Mumbai-based chef Thomas Zacharias, who has witnessed the making of blood sausages, called anthe or anthrey, in a village in Garhwal’s Tons valley, says, “In the mountains, it is not every day that an animal is slaughtered, and when it is, no part of it is wasted.” The anthe is basically a mix of goat blood, buckwheat flour and a few basic spices, encased in goat intestine. It’s not high on flavours, he adds.
“Actually, these sausages are primarily a source of sustenance,” says food researcher, writer and food show director Shubhra Chatterji, who divides her time between Mumbai, Dehradun and the Tons valley. At the start of summer, shepherds climb to higher altitudes with their flocks, returning only in autumn. Buckwheat is one of the few things they carry with them. “At times they would slaughter an animal for food, and one of the things they make are these sausages stuffed with buckwheat slurry,” says Chatterji.
The blood sausages are also intrinsic to celebration. Throughout January, says Chatterji, villages in the Tons valley take turns to host five-day melas (carnivals) to celebrate Uttarayan. On one of the days, a ram or goat is sacrificed, and every part of the animal is consumed. The blood and guts go into making these sausages, eaten as part of the feast.
Jyoti Prakash Tamang writes about the jamma or geema—fermented chevon sausages from Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region—in his book Himalayan Fermented Foods. A mix of finely chopped goat meat, ground finger millet, timbur, a local wild pepper, chilli powder, salt and a little blood, is watered down to a slurry, stuffed into the small intestines of the goat, and tied. The sausages are boiled in water and smoked over a kitchen fire for 15-20 days. For arija, another kind of sausage, a mix of chopped lungs of the goat, blood and seasoning is stuffed into the large intestine of the goat, boiled and smoked.
Pintso Gyatso, co-founder of the Gangtok-based e-commerce enterprise Let’s Local, says sausages are a must during New Year celebrations and harvest festivals in Sikkim. Besides blood sausages, sausages are made with a mix of minced beef and semi-cooked rice (semolina or wheat can be used), along with ginger, a local allium, utcho, salt, indigenous herbs like chimphing and hogweed seeds, stuffed into natural sausage casing. “These are called kardyong,” says Gyatso. Come winter, Let’s Local ships gyuma (blood sausages) and kardyong made by local sausage makers across the country on order.
“In Meghalaya, dohs nam, pork intestines stuffed with a mix of finely chopped pig offal, blood, pounded ginger, garlic, chillies, salt and wild pepper leaves called sla-Jaiur, are a local favourite,” says Angela Muktieh, who promotes Meghalaya’s Khasi food on the Instagram account @khasifoodlover.
Kohima-based YouTuber Beho Rudy talks about Naga-style blood sausages flavoured with mejenga seeds. “It is a wild pepper often confused with Sichuan peppers,” she says.
And then there’s a sausage right out of a royal Indian kitchen. Chatterji talks about the fascinating aanth ke kebab she sampled while shooting for a food show in Dundlod, in Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region. “These kebabs were born out of the tradition of wasting no part of game brought back by royal hunting parties,” says Chatterji.
Aanth, or intestine, is stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, warm, aromatic spices and dried fruits and nuts, wrapped around skewers and roasted on a fire, constantly basted with fragrant ghee. “One of the best things I have ever tasted,” says Chatterji. But this one is hard to get.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee is a Kolkata-based food and culture writer.