Thursday, September 1, 2011

Panni Ularthiyathu (Kerala Dry Pork Curry)

A few months back, I made a rub for a big pork chop based upon the dry curry from Kerala known as Panni Ularthiyathu or Kerala Dry Pork Curry.  Panni Ularthiyathu is a popular dish in Kerala, whose origins could probably be traced back to the Portuguese who visited the subcontinent during the late 15th century.  The Portuguese brought with them Christianity, chile peppers and lots of pigs.  Take the latter two and you are on your way to Ularthiyathu.  Panni Ularthiyathu means sauteed pork, and it is actually a dry curry.  In other words, unlike some curries -- where the protein is swimming in a spiced broth -- this curry has little to no liquid to it.   Ularthiyathu is a favorite among Christians in Kerala, who serve it at Christmas.

After having made a rub inspired by this dish, I promised myself that I would make the actual curry.  Well, I recently fulfilled that promise. I researched the dish and prepared myself to make it for the first time. The key to making this dish is to use a cut of pork with some fat in it.  The fat helps to provide some moisture to the dry curry.  Luckily for me, I had a couple pounds of sliced boston butt in the freezer.  (Long story, but the lesson is always check to see if your local grocer sliced the pork shoulder before you buy it to smoke it.)  The hardest part of this recipe is to cook off the liquid so that the curry remains "dry."  The one other consideration for this recipe is the chile that you use.   Some recipes call for fresh green chiles, others call for chile powder.  I opted for the latter, because I had some leftover dried Sanaam peppers from previous recipes.

The picture below is not the greatest one that I've taken, but do not be misled.  This is a very tasty dish.

Adapted from a Indimom Recipe
Serves 4-6

2 pounds of pork (preferably with some fat on it, like from the belly or shoulder)
     sliced into even bite-sized pieces
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of minced ginger
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of chile powder (I used ground Sanaam peppers)
2 tablespoons of coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground black peppers
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
2 teaspoons of lime juice
Salt to taste
1 inch of cinnamon
4 cardamom pods (2 green and 2 black)
5 cloves
1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds
3 tablespoons of canola oil

1.  Prepare the spices. Grind the cardamom, chile peppers, cloves, and fennel seeds.  Add the coriander powder, black pepper, salt, turmeric powder.  Mix well.

2.  Saute the pork.  Heat the oil in a big pan over medium heat.   Add the pork.  Add the spice mix, garlic and ginger.  Mix well so that all of the pork is covered.  Add the lime juice.  Cook the pork until it is almost done.  (It is hard to give a timeframe because it depends upon the size of the pork pieces.)  Remove the pork and set aside.

3.  Saute the onions and the pork again.  Add the onions to the pan.  Saute the onions until they begin to brown.  Keep stirring the onions until they are evenly browned.  Drain the onions, if necessary, and return the pork to the pan.   Continue to cook until the pork is finished, mixing so that the spices from the pork are also on the onions.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Once the pork is cooked, remove from the heat.  Serve immediately with Indian rice.


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