Sorpotel – a dish that runs in (your) blood

Kill a pig in Goa and from nose to tail, not a piece gets wasted. While prime cuts of meat go to make vindaloo, sorpotel was a result of left overs, turning blood and offal into a delicacy that graces every table and every occasion in Goa.

The word ‘sarapatel’ literally means confusion, referring to the mish-mash of ingredients which include pork meat and offal which includes heart, liver, tongue and in original recipes, even pork blood. The vinegar is vital to sorpotel, not just for its taste but also for prolonging its life, improving it each day it marinates.

Made by African slaves in the Bahian province of Brazil, it was made from offal that the slaves masters discarded. The dish had tail, intestine, tongue, ears and blood. To this the Bahian’s added onions, tomatoes, and chilli peppers. Sorpotel was especially popular with Portuguese sailors travelling between Lisbon and Goa because the wine actually made the dish better with age. Some also claim that what came to India was the version popular from Alentejo region of Portugal to which spices and toddy vinegar were added in Goa, transforming sarapatel to the sorpotel of today.

If someone tells you that they did not really like your version of sorpotel, don’t be offended. No two households make the same version of the dish and every Goan, Mangalorean or East Indian has their own claim to fame in making the best sorpotel in the world.

Recently I was invited to my dear friend Nirmala D’Mello’s home in Mahim, Mumbai. Her son Aaron, who was all of two feet when I was in the parish was now read to embark on a new chapter in his life in the United Kingdom. This was a farewell lunch. The star of the table at lunch that day was the late Marie Antoinette’s sorpotel. True to her name she was a queen but to those who had the privilege of meeting her, she was just every welcoming Antoinette. On this occasion her son Sheldon was present too and I pressed Nirmala and Sheldon to share the recipe with me. This article is a tribute to a ‘queen’ who made you feel like a king.

As I have said before, while hell may provide you with fire, heaven has no kitchen. So leave your trade secrets and recipes here on earth before you go. I will be happy to publish them in memory of someone you love.

Marie Antoinette’s version of a killer Sorpotel ( this recipe has only pork and no offal)

Take 1 kg pork. Add 1 level table spoon salt, and 1 tsp haldi (turmeric)powder. Boil for 4 minutes in a pressure cooker and after the first whistle turn off the gas. Let it rest and cool completely.

Grind in 1 ½ cup vinegar, 20-25 red Kashmiri chillies, 14 cloves, 1 cinnamon, 1 tea spoon pepper corns. 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds), ½ tsp haldi (turmeric), ½ pod garlic and 1/4” ginger. Set this aside.

Cut the port into small dices. Cutting the pork is an art form and half the size of the nail of your little finger would be a good measure. In a vessel fry the cut pork in batches and set each batch aside. In the same vessel, using the fat of the fried pork, add 3 onions chopped finely and cook till translucent. Add 5 slit green chillies, 1/2″ finely chopped ginger and 1 whole pod of finely cut garlic. Stir and cook this well. Now add ground masala and the cut pork pieces. Stir this all well for a about three minutes on medium head. Cook till done. Add ( or keep adding) a little water at a time to the sorpotel while cooking. You need a gravy with a very thick consistency. When done, cool and then store in the fridge. If you are in no hurry to eat it you could undercook the meat a bit, cool and store it in the refrigerator, take it out every day for a week and heat it checking for vinegar and salt. Remember to cool it down completely before you refrigerate it again. Because the meat was fried it wont disintegrate or over cook even if you reheat it several times.

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