Meat the makers

Updated: Oct 26, 2019, 17:17 IST | Krutika Behrawala | Mumbai

As the humble Goa sausage becomes the subject of research and aims for a GI tag, experts share the elaborate art and craft of making the smoked, tangy and spicy flavour bombs

Isabella Fernandes preps rosary bead sausages
Isabella Fernandes preps rosary bead sausages

Abishai Fernandez's childhood memories are spiked with the heady aroma of the Goa sausage (and not "Goan sausage") that his grandmother would make at their Mumbai home. Made from scratch over six days, the sausages packed intense flavour in the chilli fry, pulao, feijoada and roulade.

"Sausage-making is fun but a tedious art. We got it right after several failed attempts, and a lot of meat being wasted," admits Fernandez, 35, who follows the family recipe and sells on order. He's one of the few Goa sausage-makers in Mumbai. Otherwise, the Goa sausages — available at cold storages, with vendors outside local churches and on restaurant menus — are largely sourced from the sunshine state.

Goa sausage shawarma at Mangoes
Goa sausage shawarma at Mangoes

At Gables, a no-frills restaurant in Colaba, the sausages are supplied by a Goan aunty who sells it at the bustling Mapusa market in north Goa. "Several such local women sell the product. They've been making them for years without using any machines. No one knows the craft better than them," reveals Joel Fernandes, third-generation owner of Gables that opened in 1956 and has been serving Goan fare for 10 years. He orders 25 kg every month. "Earlier, it was difficult to source but now, we've set up a system to obtain it via road where the sausages are put on a Mumbai-Goa bus."

Toddy twist

While the Portuguese introduced the pork sausage aka chouriço to Goa, the locals enhanced the original flavours with spices including cinnamon, clove and red chillies, and garlic. They also added soul to the sausage with coconut toddy vinegar. It complements the heat with a well-rounded acidity and helps preserve them. Abishai, who brews his own batch of vinegar, says, "Feni is a popular choice too."

Margao choriz pao at Bombay Vintage
Margao choriz pao at Bombay Vintage

Now, the Goa sausage is a research subject for Dr R Solomon Rajkumar, a scientist at ICAR — Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute. Reportedly, he hopes to help it attain a geographical indication (GI) tag with his thesis.

Quality check

"A good Goa sausage has smoky, spicy and sour flavours. It takes a Goan to tell if the balance is perfect. The meat should have a mature flavour rather than tasting like it does in a curry," says chef and restaurateur Meldan D'Cunha of Bandra's Soul Fry that serves sausage pulao and sausage chilli fry on its menu.

Chef Rohan D'Souza at Radio Bar. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Chef Rohan D'Souza at Radio Bar. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

This involves a bunch of steps — selecting pork, cleaning, curing, mincing, marinating, stuffing it in casings, tying them and lastly, sun-drying and smoking them. Each step improves flavour and helps extend the shelf life, from a few weeks up to three months.

There are two main varieties of Goa sausages — one resembling a necklace of plump rosary beads and other comprising bigger links. Both, sourced from the Margao market, are stocked by the popular Joseph Cold Storage in Bandra. "Their taste is the same but the bigger ones are slightly juicier," says the owner's nephew Duran D'Souza. Their patrons include expats and clients from Pune and Nashik too.

Joel Fernandes. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Joel Fernandes. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

October to May marks the sausage-making season. "It's important to store them well in the rainy season, otherwise a peculiar stench develops and their colour changes from dark reddish to orange," he adds.

The sausage's quality is determined by its meat-fat proportion. "Lesser the fat, greater the quality," says Rohan D'Souza, chef and culinary director, Silver Beach Hospitality. His stock, used in the Goan sausages bruschetta at Radio Bar, comes from Isabella Fernandes, an old-style sausage maker in Candolim.

For Bandra boy Floyd Cardoz, the ideal meat-to-fat ratio is 80-20. "And it's important to have both in a piece. My family would use belly and shoulder meat. Some Goans use pig skin too," says the NYC-based chef and culinary director at Hunger Inc Hospitality. His team at BKC restaurant O Pedro sources the sausages from a traditional sausage maker in Margao, for their choriz chilli taco and Margao choriz and bacon pulao.

Usually, Goan salt or sea salt is used to cure the meat. Fernandez, who cures it for up to 48 hours, also presses it down with weights to drain excess water.

Get stuffed

Once sufficiently marinated with ground spices and coconut toddy vinegar, the filling is stuffed in casing. This step stems from the nose-to-tail philosophy of eating. The casings are rinsed in salt water and vinegar to help their walls expand. Cardoz's great grandmother, who lived in Calangute, would hand-stuff the sausages funnelled through coconut palm leaves.

Today, sausage stuffers do the job. "But if the casing walls are thin, the cylinder's pressure causes them to explode and the filling splatters all over," laughs Abishai. "The trick is to press the meat and fat down by hand and remove air pockets."

Smokin' hot

The sausages are mainly sun-dried and smoked. The latter lends a depth to the flavour and a tantalising aroma. Cardoz recollects, "My family used mango, jackfruit and coconut wood. They weren't hung too close to the fire, so it would be warm smoke."

Abishai's smoking process lasts for six to eight hours. "They shouldn't get dehydrated to the point when the meat crumbles in your hand," he says. "Smoking is anti-microbial and anti-oxidant but not strong enough to be a solo preservative. So, salt and vinegar are added in the making to enhance the shelf life." His fare can last for two weeks without freezing.

Lack of open space for drying and smoking sausages, and a strong smell, are the main challenges for those keen to make Goa sausages in Mumbai. "We tried it for six months but it didn't work out. So, now we source from Mapusa," says Sheldon Fernandes of Mangoes, a home-style restaurant in Orlem run by his Goan-Mangalorean family.

For Abishai, however, making sausages means bonding with his mother (who helps him), getting some exercise and sharing his love for his grandmother's homely, handcrafted Goa sausages that stand up to the processed variety.

Where to try it

. Goa sausage pulao ('140) and Goa sausage chilli fry ('160).
Time 10.30 am to 3.30 pm, 6.30 pm to 11 pm At Gables, Glamour Building, Hazji Niyaz Road, Colaba. Call 65043633

. Goa Sausage Shawarma ('150), choriz pav ('120), Goa sausage chilly fry ('250) and bhurji ('250).
Time 11.45 am to 3.15 pm; 7 pm to 11.30 pm At Mangoes, Almar Arcade, near Punjab National Bank, Orlem, Malad West. Call 28015552

. Chef Gracian de Souza's Margao Choriz Pav ('395).
Time 12 pm to 1 am At Bombay Vintage, opposite Regal Cinema, Colaba. Call 22880017

. Braised Goan chorizo in grilled octopus ('795).
Time 12 pm to 3 pm, 7 pm to 1.15 am At Qualia, World Crest, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lower Parel. Call 68490000

. Margao choriz and bacon pulao ('775) and choriz chilli taco ('425).
Time 12 pm to 1 am At O Pedro, BKC. Call 26534700

. Goa sausages bruschetta ('450).
Time 6 pm to 1.30 am At Radio Bar, New Castle Hotel, Khar West, Khar. Call 9819781021

. Rosary bead sausages ('195 for 40 pieces) or the fatter variety ('850 per kg).
Time 8 am to 1.30 pm, 4 pm to 8.30 pm AT Joseph Cold Storage, Gasper Enclave Building, Saint John Street, Pali Naka, Bandra West. CALL 26424261

. Rosary bead sausages ('250 for 50 pieces).
Ttime 7 am to 1 pm, 4 pm to 8.30 pm At Fatima Cold Storage, St Michael Bhavan, Lady Jamshedji Road, Mahim West. Call 24455963

. Order homemade Goa sausages from Abishai Fernandez ('1,200 per kilo) Call 9769226966

ONLINE TREAT
To get your fix straight from Goa, order online from Pedro Pão, a Goa-based artisanal venture by Elton Carvalho that ships across India. Besides the round ones (Rs 479 for 500gm), they also make low-fat Goa sausages (Rs 699) and king-size varieties (Rs 499).

LOG ON TO pedropao.com

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