My India Trip – Festival Food

Dishes served for St. Sebastian festival at our house. (Photographs by Sebastian John)
Dishes served for St. Sebastian festival at our house. (Photographs by Sebastian John)

This trip to India was also when I spent Christmas with my parents, I guess in eight years?. ..maybe even longer.  We have always been a family of travelers, living at multiple locations at a given time. My wife and I were also lucky to be there during the annual St. Sebastian’s festival, the saint after whom I have been named after.

I don’t remember doing much on Christmas. We were just too tired after the long haul, especially me after my immediate travel to Delhi from Bombay, and then all the way to Kerala just before Christmas. But we had few members of our family visiting us for the annual  St. Sebastian’s festival. Normally my mom would cook up a storm, laboring in the kitchen two days head of the festival. But my parents took a smart move this year and got the food delivered by my aunt, who runs a catering service. Yes..the same aunt who owns the bakery. It was pretty much home-made food. It just made my parents life easier and they could spend more time with us.

My mom did cook one dish – the spicy crispy pork dish she has perfected over the years. I have tried to replicate it on numerous occasions, but it never comes out the way she does. The dish is a huge hit among my extended family. I sometimes take solace the secret might be in the fresh pork meat she gets.

On the eve of the two-day festival, some folks in my village had pooled in money and slaughtered a pork. My dad bought four pounds. The meat was as fresh as you can get. There are no specific cuts of pork in my village. You can sometimes request meat from certain parts of the animal. But generally when you buy pork you will get your share of meat and fat rind. How to deal with the fat rind is left to the person who cooks it.

My aunt delivered for us –

Meen Vattichathu – SPICY fish curry cooked with oily fish. The dish is characteristic of the thin layer of oil floating on top of the dish
Kozhi Varathathu – Fried chickenwith spices and curry leaves.
Pothu erachi Varattiyathu – Spicy braised beef with diced coconut and curry leaves. Buffalo meat in Kerala is qualified as “beef”
Kalan – raw plantain, coconut, and yogurt curry tempered with black mustard seeds and curry leaves.
Cabbage thoran – Steamed shredded cabbage with green chillies and black mustard seeds. The cabbage is steamed at low heat without water (cabbage has water content), and hence it retains a nice crispy texture.
Yogurt salad – Yogurt, green chillies and onions.
Steamed rice

Meen Vattichathu - SPICY fish curry cooked with oily fish
Meen Vattichathu - SPICY fish curry cooked with oily fish
Kozhi Varathathu - Fried chickenwith spices and curry leaves.
Kozhi Varathathu - Fried chickenwith spices and curry leaves.
Pothu erachi Varattiyathu - Spicy braised beef with diced coconut and curry leaves.
Pothu erachi Varattiyathu - Spicy braised beef with diced coconut and curry leaves.

The pork dish that my mom makes –

She cuts the pork into about 1/2 inch sized cubes, and cooks the meat with green chillies, turmeric, paprika and curry leaves. She also adds some bones to the pot, which she eventually removes. Once the meat is cooked, she drains the fat. She then fries shallots, red chillies and other spices in a wok, and transfer the meat into it. The meat is then stir-fried at high heat with occasional draining of excessive fat that melts. This process goes on for few minutes till the pork is crispy.

Boiled pork in pot with green chillies and curry leaves. Note the fat at the bottom of pot. That is poured out.
Boiled pork in pot with green chillies and curry leaves. Note the fat at the bottom of pot. That is poured out.
Stir-frying the cooked pork with spices
Stir-frying the cooked pork with spices
My mom draining off fat from the pork dish. She the fat, laced with flavors of green chillies, curry leaves and other spices to temper other dishes.
The finished product - Spicy crispy pork
The finished product - Spicy crispy pork

The Nellayi church during St. Sebastian’s festival –

Nellayi church
Nellayi church
St. Sebatian's "ambu" (Sacred Arrow) being brought to your house. The symbolic arrow is taken from house to house in the parish. Even non-Christians receive the arrow at their homes.
The big procession on Sunday night. It goes through most of the parish accompanied with the statue of St. Sebastian
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6 thoughts on “My India Trip – Festival Food

  1. Hi..i stumbled upon ur blog and i must say u just left me drooling…the pork oh my…is too good 2 pass…du ahve a recipe of the same..id like 2 give it a shot

    1. Thank you. Funny enough I don’t have the recipe. My mom makes it. Will have to get it from her.

  2. Hi, your festival food list looks superb.. I need the pork recipe… My mouth’s drooling.. This reminds me of the festival food, i used to have in church fests, the taste of batter fried chilli (mulakhu bhaji) never leaves my palate..

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