Sukuti:The Dry Meat Delicacy

Food Issue 109 Nov, 2010
Text by Yesha Malla / Photo: ECS Media

There had been an animal sacrifice. The priest called in by the family had worshipped the buffalo in front of the shrine of the gods, smearing the head with vermillion powder and flowers before the sacrifice. The ceremony over the blood was offered to the gods, and the head placed at the shrine. The household got busy hauling the buffalo to be cleaned and then to be taken to the kitchens. Not one part was wasted, not the organs, nor the bones, all would be used to cook a variety of sumptuous specialty dishes.  Some of the meat they sent to be cooked for dinner that day, with the delightful prospects of it being cooked in gravy, fried, grilled, smoked, braised or steamed; the rest was to be dried and stored for later. Before the well-off urban life with restaurants and shops, people in Nepal didn’t indulge in meat often and when they did get the opportunity, they wasted nothing. During harsh winters when food supplies were lean dried meat came to the rescue. It was a necessity. Nowadays the same is an abundant delicacy.

It doesn’t always have to be buffalo meat and the sacrificed kind; chicken, duck, lamb or goat flesh can also be dried. The meat is carefully cut into thin strips and the fat carefully removed - dried fat give off a peculiar unsavory smell. The strips are often coated with spices such as salt, cumin, pepper, chilli powder and turmeric, and sometimes a healthy dab of ginger and garlic pastes, before being spread out on a clean cloth to dry in the sun. The spices help keep insects at bay and give intense flavor. Once the moisture has escaped and the strips have shriveled a bit and become dry, the meat can be stored and lasts a long time. It can be rehydrated by simply cooking it in gravy in times of need, but the best way to use dry meat is to transform it into one of the most popular snacks of Nepal – Sukuti.

Sukuti makes for a spicy, lip-smacking appetizer

For as long as Nepali people have been drying meat, Sukuti has been prepared in the kitchens. To make sukuti, dried meat is taken out of the reserves and deep fried or smoked or roasted, and then pounded along with spices - a blend of salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder. Sukuti is versatile, and goes well with chopped onions and tomatoes, topped with chopped green onions or coriander leaves. The dried meat once mixed well with the spices, the onions and perhaps a dash of ginger and garlic paste, is then mixed with a liberal amount of oil. No need to break a sweat making this nifty appetizer. The resultant snack, each bite containing chunks of meat, and spices, garlic, ginger, onion, tomato, salt, and chili, is spicy, alternates between chewy and crispy in each bite, and is absolutely delicious.