From Portugal to India: Vindaloo

After living in India for a while, one would notice the European influence in India. One would really appreciate their past presence over the Indian state of Goa, a once Portuguese ruled province. Somewhere after you fall in love with Goa’s history, heritage, its architecture, churches, beaches and its cheap booze you will take all that love and give it to Goa’s Food. Again, heavily influenced by Portuguese cuisine, we see things like spicy chorizo sausage and pork curries cooked with beans. They even brought down Cafreal with them from Africa.

One of my favorite Goan dishes, after Sorpotel, is the spicy, oily yet absolutely delicious curry, Vindaloo.

I’ll get to Sorpotel another day, it’s extremely time consuming! But Vindaloo, according to old trusty wikipedia is, ” Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish ‘carne de vinha d’alhos,’ a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic.” Hence, ‘Vin’ meaning wine and ‘aloo’, garlic.  Vindaloo uses vinegar, chilies, garlic and sometimes the pork is substituted with chicken or beef. The meat is marinated, then the curry is cooked. The Vindaloo is then left for at least three days to pickle, this is the most crucial step and improves on the flavor of the dish.

Now like any Goan Recipe, every family has its own version, and every version is supposed to be the better one. I have taken this recipe and adapted it from my Aunt’s, Rita DeSouza, cookbook which in my opinion makes the best Vindaloo…

You will need:

  • Dry Kashmiri Chilies       15
  • Cumin Seeds                   1tsp
  • Black Peppercorns         1/2 tsp
  • Black Mustard Seeds     1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon                        1″ stick
  • Turmeric powder           1/2 tsp
  • Ginger                              2 tsp
  • Garlic                                20 cloves
  • Salt                                   2 tsp
  • Vinegar                            100ml
  • Pork with fat                   1kg
  • Vegetable Oil                  4 tbsp
  • Onions, medium            4 tbsp
  • Green Chillies                 1
  • Vinegar                            70 ml

First up, we need to take the first set of ingredients, i.e from the Kashmiri Chilies to the salt, and grind them and then make a paste. Before you start grinding, slit the Kashmiri Chilies and remove their seeds.

  1. If you are not used to a little spice, I will show you  a little mercy, you may use around 8-10 chilies. The Kashmiri Chilies contribute to the flavor and body of the dish, and is the source of the red color. So the chilies are a crucial ingredient, but make sure all the seeds have been removed as that is where all the spiciness is. Now carry on, grind the spices and add the 5 tablespoons of vinegar to make a smooth paste.
  2. Cut the Pork into 2 inch cubes. Use Pork with a little fat on it, preferably the belly. Rub the spice paste in the cut pork, then seal it into a container and refrigerate. Let it marinate for at least 12 hours.
  3. In a deep pan, heat the oil and fry the onions (sliced) till golden. Increase the heat and add the pork, with the marinade, fry for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 3 cups of water to it and simmer, partially covered with a lid, till the pork is cooked and tender.
  5. Add the green chili, slit with the seeds removed, then the 70 ml of vinegar and salt to taste. Simmer, uncovered, till the gravy is thick.
  6. Now cool it, and let rest for between 24 hours to 3 days. The Vinegar will take action and intensify the flavors. Keep it in a cool environment and make sure there is a layer of oil covering the surface of the curry. Reheat and serve it with rustic bread or rice.

If you do find the dish too hot, serve it with a milk based accompaniment. Water will just spread the capsaicin oil from the chilies around your pallet, while lactic acid will actually take the compounds down with them. So you may want to keep some Yogurt at hand.

Goan Cuisine is quite exceptional, a fusion of Portuguese cooking with Indian flavors and spices. It is strange recipes like these, with an interesting origin and a challenge to cook, that make it a unique experience on the table and especially in the kitchen.