It’s that time of the year again — sleigh bells are ringing and the sound of carols are drifting through the air. With Christmas around the corner, I’ve been reminiscing about food and special memories of this wonderful festival that I have shared with my family and friends over the years. However, this one incident stands out. When I was a child, it was our family tradition to visit my dad’s friends every year for a scrumptious Christmas lunch. I particularly remember the Christmas when I was seven years old; we visited Aunt Sheela and her family who live in Camp. The afternoon began with a lunch that included countless courses and lasted for hours.
She prepared an amazing black pepper curry mutton. The thought of it still makes my mouth water. With the spicy mutton dish, what made for perfect accompaniment were hot chapatis and homemade green chutney. Another highlight was the double-cooked pork that Uncle Peter, another of my dad’s friends, brought to the lunch. Double-cooked pork is an authentic Szechuan dish where the pork steaks are first stir-fried and then coated with a hearty sauce of fermented black bean, chili bean sauce and mixed with vegetables such as cabbage and bell peppers. He served it to us with rice and rasam (pepper water). Although a slightly unique combination, the taste was out of the world.
I was too young for the wine but my parents complimented their meal with a glass of wine while Christmas carols played softly in the background, adding to the mood. After the meal, we indulged in the rich Christmas cake and marzipan sweets. As we sat around the table eating, talking and laughing, I thought to myself that this is what Christmas is really about.
Sadly, Uncle Peter is no more today, but the taste of his Double-cooked pork will remain with me always. They say that every cook has his own unique style of cooking and till now, I’ve never eaten anything close to the dish he cooked that day.
As told to Violet Vaz