A good curry is to boiled rice, what a lead guitar is to a rock band. One cannot exist without the other. And without a good curry, boiled rice is just that. Bland and boring. Which is why a good meat curry is always a good thing to have in your arsenal. I’m not the biggest fan of pork by the way. Bacon? A thousand times yes! Pork? Not as much. It would have to be cooked a certain way for me to even want to try it. For example, pork roast – if cooked properly with lots of flavour, yes but not much. Twice cooked crispy pork belly – yes but no leftovers please (unless the belly is made crisp again). Devilled pork (a very Sri Lankan dish) – yes to leftovers too. Having said that, my absolute favourite way to eat pork is this dish right here. Spicy Sri Lankan Black Pork Curry! With big and bold flavours, this tastes phenomenal! Coming from someone who doesn’t like pork much, that means something!
The name “black pork” comes from the colour of the final product, as you may have guessed. And that colour comes from the dark roasted curry powder that’s used to prepare this dish which is mixed with tamarind paste and black pepper. I did add some cayenne pepper purely for Mr K’s benefit, because his threshold for heat is the same as that of a fire breathing dragon. But feel free to leave out the cayenne pepper for less heat.
As for the photos of the black pork in this post, I’m really not sure they do this dish any justice. There are some foods/dishes where photos just don’t convey how incredibly flavourful they are, no matter how much you twist and turn your body to get that perfect shot or perfect angle. This was one of them. So just take my word for it. If you like a good meat curry, this will be a staple in your house.
Tamarind is a crucial addition to this recipe. I have made a variation of this curry using lemon juice instead, and while it’s still delicious, it’s just not the same thing. You should easily be able to find tamarind paste in your local Asian/Indian grocery store and even on Amazon.
Tamarind and another type of “fruit” called goraka are regularly used in Asian cooking. They both add distinct sour notes to curries and even a hint of sweet/fruity taste too. Tamarind is more popular as it’s used in numerous dishes and there are a few different types of tamarind too. There’s one type called velvet tamarind, which I particularly like and is delicious. It’s something I used to snack on quite a lot when I was little, and I remember collecting the shell of this fruit because they had a really fun velvety skin (hence the name), and for a time I thought they used those shells to make velvet. True story.
And the best part about this spice mix is that you can use it for any type of meat curry – chicken, beef, lamb, whatever.
You can get Sri Lankan roasted curry powder from Sri Lankan or Indian Specialty stores, or make it yourself with my easy Sri Lankan roasted curry powder recipe.
Sri Lankan Black Pork Curry
- 1.5 lb pork loin chops or shoulder - a pork cut with some fat is preferable for this curry
- 4 tsp black pepper whole
- 6 cardamom pods seeds crushed (only the seeds)
- 1 heaped teaspoon of Sri Lankan Roasted Curry Powder recipe link available above
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper optional
- 3 tsp tamarind paste
- 2 jalapeno peppers sliced (or 2 serrano peppers if you prefer more heat)
- 1 inch of peeled ginger minced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- ½ medium onion chopped finely
- 1 tbsp lemon juice optional
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp sugar
- More salt to taste
- Cut the pork into ½ - 1 inch cubes. If the pork chops have bones you can add those to the curry as well, as they add more flavour.
- Crush the cardamom pod seeds into a powder and mix it with the black pepper, curry powder, salt, cinnamon, cayenne pepper. Next, crush and mix all of this together using a mortar and pestle.
- Add 2 tbsp of this spice mix, the tamarind paste, and 1 tbsp oil to the cut pork and mix to coat. Leave to marinate for a few hours (up to 8 hours/overnight)
- The next day, bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
- Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the bay leaves and ginger and onions, and saute till the onions become translucent. Add the garlic and sliced jalapeno peppers and saute for another 30 seconds.
- Add the marinated pork and sugar and stir to mix well. Add about ½ cup of water and bring this to a boil.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 1 hour. Check on the curry, and add extra water if it dries out.
- Taste and add more salt and some lemon juice - only if needed.
- You can serve this curry immediately, but it tastes better after it has rested for a little while. Even better the next day!
The reason why I love this curry so much, is the balance of flavours. If you’d like to increase that beautiful peppery heat (and the colour), just add a little more black pepper. The addition of tamarind paste give this curry a delicious sour note that complements the heat really well. And since it’s a meat curry, you can pair it with a number of side dishes like salads, vegetable curries, lentil curry etc. Our favourite way to eat this however is with a side of coconut sambol (a traditional Sri Lankan dish) or green pepper coconut sambol (pictured below).
This is a curry we love eating no matter what protein we choose to make it with. Pork seems to work best though, because of the texture and the flavour of the meat. And it’s one of Mr K’s ultimate comfort foods.
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