Vindaloo is the now customary British accompaniment to fourteen pints of lager. It is also a traditional Goan dish from the Portuguese Christian community.
The Portuguese arrived in India in the 16th century CE, and, among other things, introduced the chilli from their South American colonies. This is almost certainly the oldest Indian recipe to use chilli. The Portuguese also brought wine, and more importantly, vinegar. Pork was a favourite meat and was preserved in wine or vinegar to keep it edible. They adored the taste of garlic, and the often heavy-handed use of garlic featured in their cuisine.
The dish that is now vindaloo can be traced to a vinegar-preserved pork stew featuring a lot of garlic and chilli. This stew was known as Carne de vinha d’ahlos and was adapted to add some local spices to create today’s dish.
There are a number of views; some state that wine or “vin” was replaced by vinegar and chillies, resulting in a spiced pork dish with a tangy sourness, cooked with potatoes or “aloo”. Other views are that the potato is a modern addition, and an authentic vindaloo does not have potatoes. We do not use potato in our family version of this dish.
If you insist on having potatoes, par-boil your potatoes, cut into cubes the same size as the meat and add towards the end of the cooking before you start to reduce the gravy.
Another view has it that vindaloo can be made with anything. I have seen chicken, beef, fish, egg, prawn and vegetable vindaloo. This is not a view we ascribe to. Vindaloo is made with pork. No pork, no vindaloo.
In Goa this dish is known as vindahlo which translates to “vin” or vinegar and “ahlo” which is the Portuguese word for garlic.
My grandmother’s cookbook uses the spelling vindalu which is still in common usage in many parts of India.
The dish should be hot and with complex flavours. People should taste the pork, then the chilli, vinegar and garlic, and then the aromatic spices over that. Sometime later, with their hair sticking to their head with perspiration, as they reach for the raita, or the fifteenth lager, they realise they have eaten something very hot.
Unlike the usual curry house fare, this should be a subtle dish. Vindaloo should not be a chilli-led assault on your palate. Cooking most of the chillies into the dish and not as a late addition removes that initial onslaught and allows the flavours to develop. Note that subtle does not mean mild because this is a hot dish.
Be aware that you need to start this dish well in advance of serving it. There are two sets of two-day marination periods, of which the first is the most important. This first marination recreates the vinegar-preserved character of the original dish. You could increase both marination times without spoiling the dish.
We use brown vinegar for this recipe, but you could use red wine vinegar, or even sherry vinegar if you want. Brown vinegar has a suitably intense flavour, quite appropriate for this dish.
- wide pan with lid
- 800 g pork - cut into 5cm cubes
- 1 tsp salt
- 12 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 cup brown vinegar
for the gravy
- Place the pork into a glass bowl. Sprinkle with salt and minced garlic and mix well to coat. Add the brown vinegar and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.
- For the second marinade, place all the second marinade spices except the turmeric and jaggery in a dry frying pan over medium heat and fry for two minutes, or until they become fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Grind the cooled spices to a fine powder. Place into a small bowl and add the turmeric and jaggery. Drain the vinegar marinade into this bowl and mix well to make a smooth paste, adding a little more vinegar if required.
- Pour the paste over the pork and mix well to completely cover each piece of pork. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.
- Remove marinated pork from the refrigerator before cooking and allow it to come to room temperature.
- Heat the oil in the pan over low heat. When hot, add the garlic slices and allow to cook gently, stirring often, for about five minutes or until soft, translucent, and highly aromatic, but not browned. Take care not to burn the garlic. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.
- Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds to the oil in the pan. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the chopped onions and salt. Mix well, then increase the heat and fry for about five minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the ginger and chilli and fry for another five minutes.
- Add the pork with its marinade and the water to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover, and leave to cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender.
- Remove the lid and turn up to high heat. Stir in the reserved garlic slices. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently until the gravy has reduced, is thick, and just covers the meat.
- Transfer to a warmed serving dish, sprinkle with garam masala and coriander leaves and serve.
- Be aware that you need to start this dish well in advance of serving it. There are two sets of two-day marination periods.
- Vindaloo is made with pork. No pork, no vindaloo.
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