Summer is coming to an end and the nights are getting cooler. Sougri (or kenaf), the one Summer’s loyal vegetable, will soon start flowering and dry up.
Before the season ends, I wanted to do another post with sougri and this recipe came to mind when I was just about to fall asleep. I had then slightly raised my head and squinted my eyes to speak to Korou, “Let’s have pork for lunch tomorrow.” And it was set! I went back to sleep.
I wanted to come up with a light pork stew which wasn’t too oily but also wanted it to be flavourful with at least three interesting flavours coming together. So, I decided that one of them should be PORK! And since I have never tried cooking pork with sougri, I decided to give it a go. And so, sougri is the second ingredient. I am using szechuan pepper (or mukthrubi maru) as the third ingredient to give it an exotic spicy flavour without making it too hot.
So, for this recipe you will need:
Chop up the sougri leaves finely and the meat into medium sized chunks.
I used sougri nayaatpi leaves for this recipe as it gave a sourer taste to the dish. And I wanted it to be as sour as possible using sougri leaves. The picture above shows a nayaatpi on the left and a normal sougri leaf on the right. Notice that the edges of the nayaatpi’s leaf is more prominently jagged as compared to a normal sougri leaf.
Szechuan pepper is a delightful addition to the spice collection if you still haven’t started cooking with it. It goes beautifully with red meats and especially more so with beef. It lends a tangy minty flavour to the gravy but could be a little unpleasant if you accidentally take a bite of it… something similar to taking a bite of a whole black pepper when it is used that way in a curry. Biting a szechuan pepper can leave a minty hot sensation on the tongue which some people might not find pleasing.
Cover about 2/3rd of the meat with water and boil it in a pressure cooker for about 10-13 whistles. You can boil it in a pot for about 2 hours if you like or if you don’t have a pressure cooker. In that case, you will have to keep replacing the water which gets lost with evaporation. We are not adding any seasoning or salt right now as we will be saving the lard that melts out of the meat for later use.
You will get something like this at the end of the process with lots of lard melted out of the meat and very little or no water left.
Strain the liquid and keep the meat aside.
Isn’t lard simply beautiful?
Now carefully skim the lard from the top layer leaving behind the water or the pork stock. ..
And store it away in a jar for later.
Roast the meat in slow fire (smouldering fire would be the best). Make sure the meat is high up from the fire source. Some fats will still ooze out of the meat and fall into the fire and cause some flames. The flames could burn the meat if it is in direct contact with it. It will, however, give a nice smokey aroma to the meat if placed higher then where the flames end and give out smoke. Turn the meat whenever necessary and let it sit for the smoke to get infused in the meat.
I didn’t smoke my meat for too long as that would have taken up half the day. But if you have the time and the patience, you can smoke it for hours in slow fire and that would definitely pay off.
Now, take the stock that was left behind and heat it in a pot. I used the same vessel that was used for boiling the meat. There will still be some lard in it. Let it be.
When the stock starts boiling, throw in the chopped sougri leaves.
Bring it back to a boil…
And then, add in the smoked pork. Stir them around for a few seconds.
Now, add some water for the gravy, and salt. Bring it to a boil and let it stand for a minute or two to get the two flavours mixed up well.
Then add the szechuan pepper and let it boil for a few minutes… not too long. You just need to boil it long enough for the oils in the pepper to release into the gravy but not too long for it to vapourise away.
And thus, the smoked pork with sougri is ready. It is a comfort food which goes well with a hot plate of rice!
You might be thinking that the name of this recipe is made up, since you never heard it before. That’s because it is. My father made up the name when I was about 12 years old! Actually there is a story behind it to justify the name. It goes like this.
My Dad was posted in Kashmir in those days and he got a cook to help him out. He was staying alone since the rest of the family had stayed back in Imphal. Mama wasn’t around to cook for him, so the cook did most of the cooking. He wasn’t very experienced at cooking; and so wasn’t very familiar with popular recipes. But he always managed to save his job by improvising and coming up with his own recipes. We stayed with Papa during our vacations and that’s when we got to taste his cooking. Among other dishes, his chicken was the best and it never tasted like any chicken curry we had. His name was Ramaiya and Papa started referring to his chicken as Ramaiya Chicken! Papa liked his curry so much that he learned the recipe from Ramaiya and passed it on to his children too. To this day, Ramaiya Chicken remains a popular dish in our house.
Sougri kangsoi is a simple dish…. simple to make with only a few ingredients. But I have to confess that I was never satisfied with, what I thought was, my preparation of sougri kangsoi. It never managed to match the balance of flavours that my mom’s sougri kangsoi had achieved… or for that matter, those made by other seasoned and experienced ladies… (men rarely indulge in preparing kangsoi… RARELY, though not never).
After getting married I was cooking more of the traditional dishes and I was determined to get them right. That’s when I started observing my mother-in-law’s cooking. I was using the same ingredients as she was but her kangsoi had the balance while mine was always a little off. The lack of balance was subtle, and it bothered me more because it was so. It is fairly easy to catch a mistake in the recipe if the thing that is off, is significant… but it takes an amount of concentration and observation to pin a mistake if it is so subtle. Almost like trying to cut a very thin slice of cake… bad analogy, is it?
Now, I have got it right and I am excited to share the trick to making sougri kangsoi with the right balance of flavours.
Yes, we have started brewing our own kombucha at home and this one is purple! And it came out nice and fizzy too. Bye bye COCA COLA!
Hello… I am sorry for replying late… it’s been quite long since I checked my messages. I am not certain about the number of amlas that make a spoon of the powder. But I can assume that a pill must have 2-3 dry amla powder in it.
It is only today, when I have finally got myself to blog after a long span of procrastination, that I realised that it has been over a year since I last posted. A lot has happened since then, the grandest among them being Korou and I getting married. With all the wedding work over, we started focusing on joint projects such as a short film we are currently working on. And so, the blog got ignored for a while. But not anymore! I plan to make up for all those days… yes!
I had hoped to come back with an elaborate recipe but I guess this will have to do for now. I didn’t know what to name it but I wanted “autumn” to feature in the name. Pumpkins always spell Autumn to me. My father had given me a big pumpkin the last time I visited and I was determined to cook it in 101 ways… well maybe not that many ways but many just the same.
It’s been a long time that I have been planning to do this recipe for the blog. This is the first time that I am making it. It was quite hard to find someone who knew how to make Chagem Ooti. I had always thought that it would be a difficult recipe since no one around me seemed to know how to prepare this dish. Mama doesn’t know. My Aunts don’t know. And of course, the boys and men in the house don’t know it either. I wonder if it is the same with other families. I have always thought of Chagem Ooti as a kind of gourmet variety of Ooti with only a few people knowing how to make it.