KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 — Fans of biryani and siew yoke, two celebrated staples of North Indian and Cantonese menus respectively, will have much to cheer when they drop by Meat The Porkers. The restaurant — the brainchild of Herukh Jethwani of Fierce Curry House fame — is the first restaurant offering pork-based North Indian cuisine in Asia.
Imagine tandoori pork ribs. Bacon and cheese naan. Porky shish kebabs. And, of course, the aforementioned siew yoke biryani that started the ball rolling for Herukh. He recalls, “About three years ago, I had to bring something to a friend’s open house. I bought pork tenderloin, thinking that’s the tenderest part but it turned out too tough. I didn’t know how to cook pork.”
That was not surprising considering Herukh, despite his culinary background, was more familiar with North Indian cuisine. He had successfully spearheaded Fierce Curry House, one of the popular banana leaf rice and biryani destinations in Bangsar, and Fiercer, which focused more on à la carte North Indian dishes. Pork was an entirely new meat for Herukh and his cooks; they were more familiar with chicken, lamb and seafood.
“We didn’t know how to handle pork,” admits Herukh. “I thought pork was like chicken, that the tender part would be the leg — I was wrong. Then at a subsequent Chinese New Year, the idea hit me that maybe I could try ready-cooked pork such as siew yoke with biryani — it worked amazingly!”
Thus encouraged yet still cautious about the viability of pork-based North Indian cuisine, Herukh started a takeaway business from home. Using only a Facebook page to promote it, he wanted to gauge customer reaction before taking the next step.
“I actually had the idea for combining biryani with pork more than three years ago. This was a bold step for me because I knew there’s no stepping back after that. The response was better than I expected. In fact, I drove my mom and my wife mad as random strangers would turn up at our house to collect their siew yoke biryani!”
Clearly it was time to take the next step (for domestic peace, if nothing else). At the same time, Herukh observed that banana leaf rice and biryani at Fierce Curry House were mainly lunchtime business while Fiercer’s à la carte offerings drew more of a dinnertime crowd.
“I decided it made more sense to blend Fiercer — originally at Publika — into Fierce Curry House in Bangsar. So now the Bangsar shop operates as Fierce Curry House during the day and by 4pm it switches into Fiercer. That meant I had the Publika shop free to use — perfect to launch Meat The Porkers,” says Herukh.
Having experienced the reach of social media when he first opened Fierce Curry House, the marketing-savvy biryani king knew he’d have to tap into those channels again. Even then, he was in for a surprise: “I’d posted about our Thursday opening on Tuesday night and within two days, that Meat The Porkers post had over 27,000 views on Facebook and over 170 people sharing! This was way more than a typical Fierce Curry House post averaging about 1,000 organic views.”
Herukh believes that everything happens serendipitously for him. He says, “Take our signature lobster biryani at Fierce Curry House, for example. I had gone to buy fish from Southern Rock Seafood next door but they had run out of fish that day. The owner recommended that I try lobster instead. It turned out to be my biggest failure ever!”
Undeterred, Herukh realised that lobster is a fragile ingredient and went back to the drawing board. He returned and bought another lobster to try again. In the end, it took him four more lobsters before he finally got the recipe just right.
“I’m not one to give up. Cook lobster for more than six or seven minutes and it becomes rubber. Once my lobster biryani was perfect, I posted pictures of it online. Things really took off after that. I personally think that’s what separated Fierce Curry House from the rest.”
Fierce Curry House became known for decadent biryani ingredients such as cod, scallops and lamb shanks; they even had turkey biryani for Christmas. The only meats missing from their repertoire were beef, because Herukh’s family doesn’t eat beef, and pork as Fierce Curry House is a pork-free establishment. Hence Meat The Porkers was an exciting challenge for Herukh.
“I’d irritate my wife with ideas at all hours of the day and night, such as ‘How about butter pork?’ or ‘Why not pork rogan josh?’ One morning I woke up with the concept of bacon and cheese naan and it’s now one of the most popular items on our menu.”
Rather than the usual strips of streaky bacon, Herukh had his butcher John at Lee Wah Trading Co, a pork butcher at the Taman Tun Dr Ismail market, supply him with bacon chips instead. He says, “After sautéing in butter and garlic, we’ll put the bacon in the naan with Cheddar for taste and mozzarella for the gooey stretchiness. The bacon has an overpowering, smoky flavour which is tempered by the garlic.”
The bacon and cheese naan goes terrifically with their tandoori pork ribs. As tandoori uses a dry rub, Herukh developed a barbecue sauce using Gordon Ramsay’s recipe as a base and tweaked it with Indian spices so that the meat stayed moist. The succulent ribs are accompanied by pol sambol, an addictive mix of shredded coconut folded into chilli powder and lime.
For their now trademark siew yoke biryani, Herukh eschews pre-roasted meat. Instead he buys the raw pork belly and passes it to a friend who roasts it at home. He adds, “We remove the crispy skin from the siew yoke meat as it’d get soggy if cooked with the biryani. Then we sauté the skin again to crisp it further and serve it on the side with the rice.”
Meat The Porker is truly the “Home of Siew Yoke Biryani”, complete with a smiling, happy piggy logo on the menus. There are even porcine figurines as décor, sourced from all over the world — from Japanese budget shops to Herukh’s sister carrying some all the way back from the US for him.
What new porky adventures will Herukh get up to next? He says, “We will revamp our menu every six months to prevent diner fatigue. For example, just for the Chinese New Year period (till February 14), we’re introducing a pork ribs biryani. Now I’ve come up with so many recipes adapting North Indian cuisine to using pork, I hope to publish a recipe book on this in the future.”
Now that sounds like a cookbook that will come in handy in every siew yoke lover’s kitchen!
Meat The Porkers
D1-G3-5, No. 1, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur
Open daily (except Tue closed) 12pm–3:30pm, 6pm–10:30pm