In Nakhololo, with the majority of our food stalls and stores being without power, our options for eating meat are pretty limited. If we want chicken, we have to travel at least an hour round trip to pick up a frozen one from our district capital, or buy it in the market and kill it ourselves. Due to these circumstances, most of the meat I eat at site comes from 99 met ($1.50) packages of chorizo I stock up on at Shoprite pretty much every time I’m in Nampula city.
As much as I love chorizo, sometimes this non-perishable, processed meat just doesn’t do it for me. Sometimes Kathryn and I want to treat ourselves. And sometimes, important guests like my mom and grandma come to site and I need to try and ~impress~ them with my at site resources and cooking skills. This is where Nakhololo’s exclusive local organic all natural pork butcher, Kathryn’s very own host pai, comes in.
During our site visit, when Kathryn’s pai was explaining to us what he does, he actually referred to himself as a “pork dealer,” rather than a butcher, because he doesn’t just butcher the pigs, he goes out every morning on his motorcycle, usually with his brother along for assistance, out into the bush in search of cheap pigs to buy, bring home, and butcher. The first time I saw two grown men on a tiny motorcycle with a fully grown live pig riding between them I was shocked, but they always make it look so easy that I have somehow grown accustomed to them waving and stopping to chat if they pass me out walking while returning with that day’s pig.
Butchery in Mozambique is different to say the least. Kathryn’s pai kills the pigs in a field right behind the market where they are sold. If you happen to be walking there at around 6am on any given day you may be lucky enough to watch the pig be dragged by its hind legs, screaming, to its death. The actual death seems relatively humane by Moz standards; the pig is lain facing down a dirt incline, the throat is slit, and it bleeds out pretty quickly. Next, the skin is scorched in an attempt to remove the hair. Finally, using a dull machete, the pig is hacked into more manageable pieces and taken to the market for selling. We are lucky enough to get the family discount (120 mets/kilo) and our choice of cut. Although most Mozambicans would usually choose the fattiest pieces first, we always ask for a piece without fat and bones.
This recipe, although in no way Mozambican, is one of my absolute favorites to make here. Using a constantly diminishing supply peach balsamic vinegar that my mom has been wonderful enough to continue replenishing through my first 10 months of service, I’ve been able to make this marinade several times and love it more each time.
Peach Balsamic Pork Marinade
- 1/4 cup peach balsamic vinegar
- Big bunch fresh basil, chopped (or dried if your cat ate your basil plant and you were too disheartened to try and grow it again)
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste ~1 teaspoon each
- 1 kilo pork meat with bones, skin, and hair removed, butterflied/sliced thin to cook quicker
Since you’ve gotta get to the market early in the morning before it sells out, I usually prepare the mixture and let it marinate all day. Once it’s time to cook it I light up the carvão (charcoal) grill, and wait for the coals to burn down until they’re glowing hot, slap the meat on, and go until you’re sure all the parasites in the dirty matu pig are 100% dead. Really though, with it being winter here, it’s pretty much pitch dark by 5:30 which makes telling when the meat is ready almost impossible. My headlamp has become a valuable kitchen accessory when cooking dinner on our charcoal stove outside.
**Special shout out to my Mom and Mimi for coming and trusting my cooking of pork in Moz, hope you didn’t get any parasites. Thanks for taking this pics of me for this edition of Cooking with Lesh**