Sunday 8 December 2013

Vindaloo : A Very Misunderstood Curry

In the UK, 'having a Vindaloo' conjures up visions of inebriated Friday nights.  Of beer swilling blokes downing ten pints before bundling into their local curry house.  And then drunkenly making their selections from a standard anglo-Indian menu whilst competing to see who can eat the hottest curry - inevitably a 'Vindaloo'.  You see, the Vindaloo is perceived as being at the top end of the chilli scale.  At the bottom end of the scale is the Korma - creamy and mild (generally eaten by curry 'wimps'). If you can manage something with a little more flavour, then the tomato based Chicken Tikka Masala is the dish for you (and we all know Chicken Tikka Masala was actually invented by the Brits). Those with a bit more curry muscle will choose the spicier Madras.  All but the bravest will avoid the Vindaloo, a staple of British curry house menus, which is sure to blow the hair off your head and make your next toilet experience rather uncomfortable.  

Sadly, this is a misunderstood curry for those less in the know - who think that curry is all about the heat - and not all about the flavour.  But an authentic Vindaloo - as eaten here in India -  is in fact the complete opposite of that.  Sure, it's spicy but the heat is completely manageable and it has a depth of flavour that makes it much more interesting to the curry connoisseur.  And the warmth comes not just from chilli - but from cloves, peppercorns and other spices in the masala.

Pork Vindaloo - a Goan Delight

What you may not know is that Vindaloo is a actually a dish emanating from Goa (and popular in Mumbai) and therefore has its roots in Portugal (the Portuguese colonised Goa).  The word Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish "carne de vinha d'alhos' which consists of meat (usually pork), wine (vinha) and garlic (alhos). The dish was modified by the Goans by substituting the wine to vinegar and by adding chillies and spices. Firstly, the pork is marinated overnight in the vinegar and spices and then cooked the next day with green chilli, tomato, onion, garlic and ginger. The vinegar and a little brown sugar which is added at the end, lends a 'sweet and sour' taste to the dish which is completely different from the kind of vindaloo you will find in a UK curry house!  Really delicious.

Want to give an authentic recipe a go?  Then try this out:

(Note: this dish requires a bit more preparation than my usual recipes.  You will need to grind the spices for the masala and marinate the meat for at least three hours prior to cooking)

Pork Vindaloo

Preparation time 3.5 hours
Cooking time 1 hour

800g pork shoulder
4 tbsp clear vinegar (white wine etc)
1 tbsp dark vinegar (red wine - I used balsamic as that's all I had)
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 tsp salt
10 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 inch ginger, cut into very fine strips
3 ripe tomatoes
1 tsp red chilli powder
4 green chillies, chopped (I used two to be on the safe side!)
4 tbsp vegetable oil
250 ml water
1 tsp jaggery or brown sugar

For the masala (spice mix):

6 cardamon pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 dried red chillies (I used a teaspoon chilli flakes)
6 cloves
2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

  1. Clean and trim the excess fat off the pork shoulder and cut into inch cubes.  Split open the cardamom pods and remove all the seeds
  2. Finely grind all the masala (spice mix) ingredients in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle
  3. Mix the ground spices with the two vinegars in a mixing bowl, add the pork and rub in thoroughly to coat well.  Keep the marinated meat in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight - as I ended up doing.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan or kadai (see below) with a tight fitting lid.  Add the onions and fry until golden brown over a low heat.
  5. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato, chilli powder and green chillies and stir well. Increase the heat and add the pork - stir frying over a high heat until the meat is browned.
  6. Add salt, water and any leftover marinade. Reduce the heat and slowly bring it back to the boil.
  7. Add the jaggery/sugar, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the meat is very tender. Season with salt.
  8. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Grind the spices for the masala mix.  Mr Jules is very good with a mortar and pestle.
Trim off any excess fat and chop up the pork into into one inch cubes.  I have in fact left a little fat on as it makes the dish juicier.

Add the spice mix to the light and dark vinegars

Massage in the marinade and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours

Get your next ingredients ready - tomatoes, ginger, green chilli, garlic and onion (I used three small onions instead of two medium as that's what we had in!)

This is an Indian Kadai - a heavy based pan that looks like a wok.  I bought this one from Pali Market.
This pan is what lends the name to Chicken Karai, Kadai or Karahi- another staple of British curry menus.

I chopped my onions and garlic in a mini-chopper to save time and tears - fry off in 4 tablespoons of oil.
Add tomatoes, ginger and chilli to the onion/garlic.  

Add the pork and and stir fry until browned.  Actually, my karai wasn't big enough in the end, so I had to transfer the whole lot to a big saucepan!

Add 250 mls water and salt - the curry looks so unattractive at this point....
...but after an hour or so of looks like this. Those are slivers of ginger that you can see.
Serve with steamed basmati rice...Bon Appetit!


  1. I always wondered about the vindaloo! Thanks for posting this. I might try it out with chicken since i don't eat pork...

    1. I am sure it will be just as delicious with chicken...most people would not use Pork. Thanks for visiting Kashmira!



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