A guest post by my husband
I read somewhere that to really understand how we change with age (and here I mean change as a person), one has to go back periodically to a place from one’s childhood that stood still in time. I grew up mostly in India, which is in quite a state of flux these days. But, in one corner of the northeast, time has been even lazier than a Bengali clerk on a summer afternoon after his nice machher jhol-bhaat lunch and a Charminar cigarette.
This special place is the tea gardens of Assam, where the ghosts of the British Raj are still eminently tangible, as in yours truly having been a burra baba having his chhota hazri in bed as late as 1990. Anyway, to reconnect with my childhood identity and find out how I got so messed up in the head since then, I went back to visit Maijan Tea Estate just outside of Dibrugarh, where my happiest childhood days were spent. I rode around the kuchha roads on a loaner Hero Jet bicycle with hilariously colorful decals and a seat that weighs more than all of Bradley Wiggin’s über-bike. I travelled the sandy banks of the Brahmaputra, soaked up stunning sunsets and sat in yogic postures waiting for my life’s purpose to be revealed.
After two days of doing this, I had my moment of truth, which consisted of the realization that unlike Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, I was not going to have any sudden epiphanies. Disgusted and thirsty, I rode the ten dusty miles back into town and drowned my disappointment in some good strong rohi, a seriously awesome country brew that may explain the chronic laziness of Assam. As the cloudy and herb-infused alcohol seeped into the innermost recesses of my soul, suddenly I saw a pig. He was healthy and pink, and speaking in a human voice, he said to me “It’s probably not in my best interests to tell you this, but spicy pork curries go awfully well with that stuff you’re drinking”. Before I could grab him by his juicy hindquarters, he disappeared, leaving me with one more nagging disappointment to add to my long list.
As it is, I’m thirty-three and life is passing me by. Simply too many things to do before I kick the bucket. Anyway, I came back home to the US a few days later, and told this story to my wife. Being the lovely girl that she is, and a good shot with her .38 revolver as well, she found the pig, shot him and cooked me this lovely Assamese pork curry with bamboo shoots. As usual, my stories have a happy ending.
Assamese style pork with bamboo shoots:
Pork: 2 lbs with some fat left on the meat
Bamboo shoots: 1lb (preferably shredded or thinly sliced)
Onion: One large, thinly sliced
Dried red chilis 8-10 nos. (depending on how hot you want) ground to somewhat a fine powder.
Ginger-garlic paste: 2 tbsp (I have crushed the ginger and garlic in a mortar-pestle, you don’t have to grind it to a smooth paste)
Oil: 1 tbsp
Cilantro: a handful
Salt to taste
- Wash the pork pieces well and drain properly.
- Heat up the oil in a heavy bottom pot.
- Add the sliced onion and sauté them until translucent.
- Add in the pork pieces and cook the meat on medium heat for several minutes. The pork pieces will change color from pink to medium brown.
- Add the ginger and garlic paste, followed by the red chili powder.
- Mix the ingredients well and cook for several more minutes.
- Add hot water just enough to cover the meat(do not add cold water, the meat will become tough)
- Cover the pot with a tight lid and cook on medium flame until the pork is half cooked.
- Add salt and the sliced bamboo shoots, cover and cook until the pork is fully cooked.
- Give it a good stir and add chopped cilantro.
- Serve it with hot rice.
PS: I have mistakenly bought the wrong style of bamboo shoots, so I had to add the shoots at the beginning. If you can find fresh bamboo shoots, it’s better or buy the thinly sliced ones.
Do not add turmeric powder. The gravy will be a deep reddish-brown in color, NOT the regular yellowish color we see in the turmeric added gravies.
Chhota hazri: chhota=small, hazri=attendance. A small breakfast/tea served in bed (Sometimes a glass of fruit juice or a banana) during the British Raj.
Burra baba: Burra=Big/elder, Baba=baby (usually referred to the elder kid in the house).
Kuchcha=raw (here it meant a country road)
Machher jhol bhaat: Rice with fish curry (a staple Bengali lunch meal)
- Durga puja palon pnepe-mangsho diye/celebrating Durga puja with mutton cooked with papaya (spicesandpisces.wordpress.com)