Turmeric has been used in the cuisine of many cultures for thousands of years but only recently have the health effects been studied. Turmeric is thought to have many health properties from improving digestion to helping coughs and asthma as well as being an antibiotic and lowering cholesterol. Turmeric is the root of a plant and can be used in fresh and dried forms (whole dried root and powdered). The flavour and fragrance are mild and pleasant. The fresh root is sometimes used in curry pastes like in Thai and Indian cooking but is not readily available in all supermarkets. The colour is a vibrant yellow and will temporarily and sometimes permanently stain lots of things like your hands if you touch it, fabrics, counter tops, and cooking utensils.
It’s one of the new super foods recently in the consciousness of the West but I don’t think that people know how to cook with it. I have a great family recipe that is easy to cook and delicious. As kids growing up we called it “yellow pork” but its real name is bafassa and it is a Macanese dish, meaning it originates from the island of Macau near Hong Kong. Today I served this with rice and a spicy coconut cucumber salad from Sri Lanka which complemented the pork well.
Bafassa (Yellow Pork)*
1 pork shoulder, any size
Select a pork shoulder or other tough cut of pork. Make sure it will fit snugly into a heavy bottomed pot. Generously salt and pepper the roast and then coat heavily with the turmeric powder. Let rest for 3o minutes at room temperature so the colour and flavour sinks into the meat. Place the pork in the pot with the sliced onions, quite a lot of sliced onions because they will make the gravy. Add water to the pot just enough to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer with a lid partially covering for 2 – 3 hours or until the pork is tender and the onions have all dissolved and created the gravy. Adjust the gravy for salt. Slice and serve with rice or potatoes and vegetables.
Sri Lankan Cucumber Salad*
1 English cucumber, sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 green chilies, finely chopped
½ cup thick coconut milk
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
lime juice to taste
Soak the onions in cold water for 5 – 10 minutes to take the sting out and make them crisp. Mix all the ingredients together and taste the salad for salt, pepper and lime juice and adjust to your taste. Chill in the refrigerator and serve.