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South Indian Vindaloo:
A Culinary, Linguistic Transformation
Johann Fleck, The Epoch Times
9/15/2008

Few things can rival or surpass the spicy, aromatic South Indian vindaloo. One could almost call it culinary overkill. Even the name and origin of this dish—found everywhere around the globe—are unusual.

Vindaloo originated in Goa, seat of a Portuguese/Indian colony for 450 years. The Portuguese brought with them their unique method of preparing pork, which was to marinate the meat in a mixture of wine, garlic, and spices called vinha de alhos.

The Portuguese governed the colony until 1960. By then, many of Goas inhabitants had converted to Christianity and served the dish during special occasions. Over time, a culinary and linguistic transformation occurred: vinha de alhos became vindalhoo and is now the modern vindaloo .

Instead of pork, Muslims and Hindus use chicken, and the spice mixture for the marinade is exotic: ginger, chili pods, cumin, cardamom, cloves, pimento, tamarind, cinnamon, mustard seeds, coriander, and turmeric. Some cooks use a commercially ready-made vindaloo-curry paste.

The dish has a fair-sized following in Great Britain and is on the menu of many Indian restaurants. British slang refers to it simply as vindy . The preparation often is made with lamb or chicken, and sometimes potatoes are added.

Traditional vindaloo does not contain potatoes, creating another linguistic misunderstanding—the anglicized word da alu is the Hindi word for potato .

Grind Your Spices Fresh

Good cooks highly recommend grinding your spices fresh in order to get the full benefit of these aromatics. Previously prepared spices lose their aromatic properties soon after grinding.

The best and most traditional way to grind seeds to a paste is to use a mortar and pestle. The mortar should be sufficiently large and heavy, thus able to accept larger quantities of seeds. A heavy pestle saves [human] energy. The mortar and pestle come in handy when making specific marinades, pastes, and pesto (the classic Italian sauce). Those who dont want to bother with the mortar and pestle can use an electric coffee grinder.

Vindaloo Recipe

This is an original Indian version and thus quite spicy. To make this less spicy, reduce the quantity of fresh chilies and the pepper. European palates will find this dish spicy, even with one-fourth the quantity of spices. Hint: vindaloo lends itself to a tasty preparation with wild game.

Ingredients:
2 lbs. of pork shoulder meat
1/4 lb ghee or high-fat butter
2 each fresh green and red chilies
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. turmeric
2 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 fresh lemon
1 large onion
1 piece fresh ginger the size of a quarter [coin]
1 Tbsp. Garam Masala powder
2 Tbsp. salt

Method:
Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. Heat the fat in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the meat, searing it. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat the bay leaves and whole cloves in a 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes, to bring out the aroma. Meanwhile, remove the stems from the chilies, peel the garlic, and mash everything fine with the coriander, cumin, black pepper, and turmeric, using the mortar and pestle.

Grind the roasted spices and add them with the vinegar to the paste in the mortar. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Mix this paste with the seared meat cubes. Leave aside, while cooking the sliced onion in the remaining fat in the pan, just until they look glassy. Peel the ginger and add it, sliced paper thin, to the onions. Add the paste-coated meat and let roast for five minutes. Then add 3-1/2 cups hot water, lower the heat, and simmer everything for 40 minutes. Remove cover, add the salt and Garam Masala, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Vindaloo and other traditional Indian fare is best served with basmati rice or Indian flat bread called naan , accompanied by a dish of plain yogurt to balance the spiciness, and a sweet-sour chutney, such as the kind prepared from mangoes. [Translators note: plum chutney, tomato chutney, and rhubarb chutney are equally elegant accompaniments]

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