Friday 24 June 2011

Boti 3

See that bowl up there in the picture? That there is comfort food for a Mangalorean. Its called Boti (a crude approximation for meat), or Kaliz Ankiti (Heart and Intestine). Okay fine, the names are not that appealing translated into English, but Boti is a classic Mangalorean dish, usually made for big feasts and parties.

It all starts when Aunty Edna tells my mum that a nice organic pig is going to be killed at the farm. Then the big question... how much meat do you want? Usually, depending on the age of the pig, a couple kilos. Then the even bigger question. Can you give me the boti, or offal? And if the answer is yes (pork offal is surprisingly popular in Mangalore), then the negotiations for the delivery of the fresh-from-farm meat.

We Mangaloreans are a thrifty and frugal lot when it comes to our meat. Pretty much the whole of the pig is used up one way or the other. The usual joke is that Mangaloreans eat everything except man... and I betcha we wouldn't balk at a little cannibalism if the meat was cooked the way we cook our other meat dishes (kidding, or am I?)

Now most people would be a bit put off about the thought of eating offal. And to be honest, I cannot understand why. Sure it can be a bit offputting, but then many Canadians eat moose butt for goodness sakes', a little pig heart-kidney-liver pales in front of that :-)

I love boti. It is one of my fondest memories of Mangalorean food. My maternal grandma (Mai) made the best boti ever! Pieces of offal diced very small, with some loin meat and fat, simmered for a couple of hours in a spicy, savoury, highly aromatic sauce. Then put away to be eaten the next day, as boti is one dish that must rest so the spices can be absorbed by the meat. After a couple days of eating it straight, then some grated coconut would be toasted on a heavy tava, and mixed into the boti, and we would get to eat it again.

Karkal, a tiny village in India, where Mai lives, is host to a gigantic religious festival. I mean, gigantic, I kid you not. This village church happily hosts thousands of people [check out picture 9, that's Aditi with my cousin Blaise and my sister Carol, we got papped :-)] for around three days, who come to pay their respects to the local saint, St Lawrence. Mai's house, being right behind the church is a natural place for all the relatives to congregate. And of course, as in every Indian household, no one goes away hungry. Plates of boti, chicken curry, sorpotel, dukra maas along with fluffy sannas straight from the steamer are pressed upon them. We loved those days, and after all the festivities were over, and the carnival packed up, we would get the leftovers to take back home to Mangalore, and the hangover of the feast continued after all the plastic tat that we picked up at the fair was broken and never to be seen again :-)

You can see why I have such a strong reaction to this dish. Yet, curiously, its the one dish that eluded me for a long time. I never really knew a butcher well enough to ask for the offal, and was also reluctant to make it, just in case it didn't taste like the original that Mai made. And then one day I woke up, and I decided that this was the week I would make boti. No real reason as such, just a strong craving for the comforting food of my childhood.

Boti 1An email to Irvings Farm Fresh brought me back the very happy news that they, indeed, had offal and would happily sell it to me (I paid $6.25 for 2 kilos!!! Talk about a bargain). Sadly, they discard the intestines, which means I had to make do with just the heart, liver, kidneys, tongue and ears. But no matter, the actual dish would work fine. This dish necessiated a few-more-than-usual calls to mum back in India as I worked out quantities and the exact recipe [Mum, if you're reading this, your measurements of quantities suck, you are rubbish at giving out exact quantities, I love you anyway :-)] Nevertheless, I was determined to get this right. I picked a week when Kay was out of town, and armed with the pork and offal got right down to making it.

The hardest part was the dicing of the meat. It took me almost 45 minutes to dice the offal and meat into the tiny pieces that are required by the recipe. But after that, the recipe flowed easily... and within a couple hours I had my pot sitting on a low heat and the boti simmering inside. The whole house smelt divine by this time, just like I remember Mai's house smelling during feast days. Once the boti was cooked, I resisted the urge to dive straight in, and let it cool down completely. I then popped it in the fridge to rest overnight. Mai usually just lets it sit outside, but I have the Western germ paranoia ;-)

The next day I toasted the coconut, stirred it into a bowlful of boti and dug in! I had made a big batch of fresh sannas, and I just couldn't wait any longer. The first mouthful brought tears to my eyes. Not because it was spicy, but because it transported me right back to the heat, noise, colour and excitement of the Karkal feast and my Mai's house. I ate the whole bowlful, savouring each bite, and the memories of my home, my Mai, my parents, cousins, friends and my ten million relatives came flooding back. I never knew how much the taste of food is interwoven into our memories, but I now understand its power and my emotional response to this dish was just that. I miss you, Mai! I miss my home in Mangalore. But I console myself with the thought that at least I can now have boti whenever I want. Because food really does transcend cultures, borders, barriers and countries. It was a beautiful lesson to learn in a bowlful of boti and sannas.

(Printable Recipe)

1½ kg mixed pork offal [liver, kidneys, tongue, heart and intestine* (*if available)]
Enough water to cover the offal + 3 bay leaves
½ kg pork, ideally shoulder
3 - 4 tbsp bafat spice mix (increase by an additional 2 -3 tbsp for added spiciness)
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 - 7 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
1½ inch piece of ginger, chopped roughly
2 - 3 green chillies, chopped very finely (increase for additional spiciness)
2 - 3 large bay leaves, fresh or dried
¼ cup vinegar (plain white or red wine)
A walnut sized ball of tamarind, soaked in ¼ cup hot water (or 1 tbsp tamarind paste)
About 2 tsp or to taste of salt
2 large onions, diced

*Variation: 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (or fresh grated coconut) **See also Important Note


Clean the pork offal very well under plenty of running water. Most places will give you relatively clean offal, but it is important to rinse it all off, especially if you manage to find intestine.

Chop the offal into largish, manageable chunks and place in a deep pot along with the bay leaves. Add enough water to cover completely and bring to the boil. Boil hard for 5 minutes, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Then drain and rinse the offal. Chop into very small pieces. Keep aside.

Chop the meat into small dice, the same size as the offal.

Place the chopped meat and offal into a large pot, and add the bafat spice mix, the garam masala, nutmeg, chopped garlic and ginger and chillies, bay leaves, vinegar and tamarind water or paste. Stir together well, and let it marinate in the pot for about 15 - 20 minutes.

Turn the heat under the pot to low, and let the meat and offal gently simmer together for about 1 - 1½ hour until completely tender. Stir occasionally. Don't add any water at this stage.

Once the meat is very tender, season the boti to your taste with the salt, adding more if you think it needs it. Don't be scared of salt, it will add to the overall flavour of the meat. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, sprinkling over more salt or vinegar.

At this point, you can decide if you want the boti with a little gravy or not. Traditionally, this dish is quite dry, but you can make it with some gravy too. If you want gravy, then add about 1/4 cup hot water. Stir together, then simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Boti is traditionally severed a day or two after making it, as it gives the meat a chance to absorb the spices. Gently reheat to serve.

Serve the boti with sannas, sweet pulav or any bread.

*A traditional variation to the boti is to add grated coconut. Toast the coconut on a hot tava or pan for about 5 minutes until it turns a dark golden brown. Stir into the boti to serve.

** If you are making a large quantity of boti, and intend to freeze it, then make sure that you DON'T add the coconut to the whole thing, as it will taste off when you reheat it. Freeze the boti, as is, and add the coconut only after reheating and just before serving. The usual measure is 1/2 cup of toasted coconut to 1/2 kilo of prepared boti.


  1. Food is comfort, Michelle. That's why the reaction to foods of our childhood are such powerful ones especially when the connection to the past is such a strong one.

    The boti sounds delicious, and your Mai is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for taking us into your world.


  2. Food is comfort, Michelle. That's why the reaction to foods of our childhood are such powerful ones especially when the connection to the past is such a strong one.

    The boti sounds delicious, and your Mai is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for taking us into your world.


  3. You have written this so well! sometimes its just not the city you miss but also the time that you will never get back.. i go to Mangalore very often but i can never bring back the time that has so many special memories. like soon after sunday catechism and mass going home for a quick snack before lunch usually comprising of sannas and dukra maas (pork)or visiting and staying over at a cousin's place even though it was just a km from home :)

  4. THis is such a great post!- so fascinating to hear about your childhood and traditions. The Brits eat steak and KIDNEY pie, brains on toast! etc - I guess each culture has it favs. Wonderful!

  5. Oh, I love your blog. The combination of great photos, delicious recipes and your chatty conversational style is fantastic.

    Will certainly be trying out some of your recipes - I love the print friendly recipe doodah and must work out if it is possible on Wordpress.

  6. I really love the sound of this. Not sure that I'll be able to persuade anyone else that I know to eat the offal but maybe I'll make it for a day when I'm on my own.

  7. This is the third time I've read this post and each time I get hungrier. I'm with you on offal; I love it and actually fresh offal home-cooked is best of all. I love devilled kidneys. But that would, I believe, be beaten by your boti. A great post. I wonder what people think that decent sausages are wrapped in? Or what faggots are?

  8. Twyla, thank you. Yes, for me food was a big part of my childhood, and I want to give the same to my daughter, so in turn she could have the same memories. Its such a comfort to remember people and places, and food is really a common denominator isn't it?

    Resh, I know exactly what you mean... we won't get those days back, but I do hope we create similar memories for us.

    Mary, thank you. Yes, its funny how offal has such a influence on so many cuisines, yet one's first reaction to hearing it is 'oh yuck'... I wish people would use it more often, there's so much flavour packed in it.

  9. MmeLindor, thank you and welcome. I love your blog as well, have been chuckling away at some of your observations :-)

    Phil, its really very good!! You should make it for yourself first, and I'll bet you'll be wanting to get everyone else to eat it too :-) Its so funny, but if I didn't tell anyone what's actually in it, then nobody would even realise what they were eating and would be just chomping down on it!!

    Chumbles, thank you :-) You should make it and let me know how it turned out... its actually not that difficult once you get the chopping out of the way. Yes, and like I said in the comment above to Phil, its funny what people will eat when they don't know what they are eating. I have once been known to eat snake, and almost throw up afterwards when I figured out what it was :-))

  10. I love offal, esp pork offal and this curry looks amazing!

    I'm sad that it's still so hard to get hold of it.

    Have you seen the book Offal by Anissa Helou? Used to be called the Fifth Quarter and it's meant to be brilliant.


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