There is something about February. The weather is glorious and the days are now longer – and these two factors never fail to whet my appetite. When it is sunny and cold all at the same, I feel like digging my teeth into something meaty. And pork is always on top of my list of to-eats.
I did have some excellent pork belly last week. We had gone to a restaurant called Perch in Khan Market (they have an outlet in Basant Lok, too). I’d heard about Perch but never eaten there. So one fine evening, I landed up there with a group of friends, thinking of pork and eagerly licking my chops.
Pork does that to me. The first dish that I cooked for friends and family, many eons ago, was chilli pork – in which I marinated small pork pieces with sauces, dusted them with flour, fried them, and then let them simmer in a thick sauce prepared with onions and green pepper. Another time, a friend and I cooked the most delicious pork chops ever by adding everything that we could lay our hands on – mango chutney, ketchup, some Bloody Mary and a bit of whiskey – to the chops. I don’t remember much of the evening, but the chops, I do recall, were superb.
The Belgian pork with apple jus at Perch was equally divine. It was soft, wonderfully moist and with just the right flavours. Apple is something that goes very well with pork, and the jus was thick, sweet and mildly tart.
Perch is a nice place, minimalistic, yet cheerful. We ate quite a bit and every dish -- from the chicken liver parfait with poached pears (see recipe below), black rice and mushroom risotto to the sous vide chili lime spring chicken with lemon thyme jus – was just right. The risotto had the fragrant flavours of truffle oil and the parfait was deliciously smooth and creamy. The chicken sous vide (a form of sealed cooking) was tender and juicy.
Among the appetisers, the dish that I enjoyed the most was the pork scotch egg, served with white wine mustard and grape emulsion. Scotch eggs are hard boiled eggs usually coated with minced lamb; here it had a minced pork casing, which added both flavour and taste to the dish.
I had a chat with the chef, a young man called Agnibh Mudi, later, and learnt that his stress is on fresh ingredients. “We use a lot of seasonal vegetables – such as pui saag in winter – in our dishes, or local ingredients such as the Bengali kasundi mustard sauce, which is served with wilted greens and fish,” he says.
The chef is now planning out his Spring Menu, focusing on salads with greens, artichokes, turnips and seasonal fruits. “We will serve exotic vegetables such as Swiss chard, but also a host of other vegetables,” he says.
I look forward to the new menu. I plan to try out the pork once again, sometime next month. There is, after all, something about March, too.
(Rahul Verma has been writing on food for over 25 years now. And, after all these years, he has come to the conclusion that the more he writes, the more there is left to be written)
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