Bringing home the bacon: Pork is seeing a surge across India
In East UP, Dalit butchers are turning cooks, selling prepared pork items by the roadside. Hyderabad has taken to bacon. In Delhi and Mumbai, bacon fries, bacon jam and pork chops sell well.
Pork is finally hitting its stride in India. In East UP, Dalit butchers are turning cooks, selling prepared pork items by their roadside huts. In Hyderabad, 10 years ago sausages were hard to find; now supermarkets stock several varieties of bacon for the discerning pork-lover. In Delhi and Mumbai, bacon fries, bacon jam and pork chops sell well.
How did we get hooked to what was once seen as unclean meat?
“The internet food culture has played an important role in this, with a lot more people being aware of all the food options out there and more willing to try them out,” says Mumbai-based food researcher and entrepreneur Rhea Mitra-Dalal.
Dalal founded The Porkaholics on Facebook, a community group dedicated to pork, with members from across India. For a year now, the group has been posting recipes, but before the pandemic, they also had regular meet-ups and potlucks, and shared tips on pork-related news and events.
“As more people are trying pork, they’re discovering that it is a more delicious and cheaper meat option, and they are localising it with dishes usually associated with chicken or mutton,” says Harish Kathuria, a Hyderabad-based real estate consultant who is co-admin of a Facebook group called The Pork Affair – Hyderabad.
He started the group about seven months ago, with six members. “This was an exclusive group as not everyone appreciates this meat. We shared which places we ate at and what dishes we liked. But now, with over 180 members, it really does not feel that exclusive anymore,” Kathuria says, laughing.
Deepak Kumar, another co-admin, named the group after the home kitchen he has run with his wife for three years. “We’re selling twice as much pork biryani now as when we launched,” he says. “And we get orders for a range of other dishes, like pork fry, pork kebabs and pork 65, which people have warmed up to slowly.”
Kumar launched the home kitchen when he saw how much friends who had never tried pork appreciated it when he served it at home. The pork dum biryani remains the most-sought-after dish out of his kitchen, he says.
It helps, Dalal adds, that people are also exploring the food cultures of different parts of India. So in Delhi the Assamese-style pork with lai xaak (mustard greens) is increasingly popular; in Mumbai, Naga chilli pork is catching on at eateries and pop-ups focused on this cuisine; and where Goan dishes such as pork sorpotel and vindaloo were once hard to find outside Mumbai and their home state, you now see them on menus across cities such as Kolkata and Bengaluru.
That doesn’t mean the inhibitions are gone completely. “In India there is no visible concept of clean pig farming and the animal is usually associated with unclean spaces,” says Dalal. “So even now, when people enquire about pork on these social media groups, they ask where they can get ‘safe’ pork.” In such cases, groups can help by pointing out places to trust.