Everyone has heard of a vindaloo. It is a curry that strikes fear into the heart of anyone scared of spicy food, and a curry that gets lovers of chilli excited and nervous at the same time. But while most of us here in the UK will live near a curry house that offers this speciality, not many of us will have tried a truly authentic vindaloo.
Vindaloos actually originate from the state of Goa and are very different to what is served at take-out restaurants in the UK. It is known as the King of Curries and is very special – the meat should be tender and fall apart when in the mouth, and the spicy heat so many of us associate with a vindaloo actually plays a less important role.A real vindaloo should be simmered for hours to let all the flavours mingle and for the meat to become nice and tender.
Vindaloo can be translated into Portuguese; this is because the curry is based on a Portuguese recipe from the colonial times and comes from the words for wine and garlic (‘vin d’alhos’), two ingredients synonymous with cuisine from Portugal itself.
Vindaloos are actually enjoyed around the Christmas period in India, with families across Goa creating large batches of the curry to be served with red rice. Pork is the traditional meat served in a vindaloo; while this meat isn’t eaten across the rest of India too often, in Goa it is readily available, thanks to the Portuguese rulers of the past. The Portuguese originally preserved their pork in large barrels of garlic-infused vinegar to stop it spoiling. Here in the west, vindaloo is often made with a variety of different meats, including beef, chicken and sometimes even duck.
But if looking to create an authentic vindaloo, don’t think expensive cuts of pork are required – the cheaper parts of the animal work just as well and are actually better suited to the long cooking process.
And, as stated, the heat of a vindaloo isn’t actually as important as many people believe. The curry definitely has a kick, but isn’t so hot it’s inedible; other flavours such as vinegar, garlic and the spice blend garam masala should also come through if prepared properly.
The base blend of spices used for a vindaloo are also important. It can be made with either toasted or untoasted spices, depending on the preference of each cook. But it should be noted that toasting the spices can sometimes result in a burnt flavour ruining the dish– this can be a real problem as the dish should have a sweet and sour undertone, which can be overpowered by bitter, burnt spices. Slow-cooked, caramelised onions add the sweetness, while palm sugar and wine vinegar add the sour tang.
Before cooking, the pork should be marinated for at least two hours in a blend of vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, chilli, fresh ginger and tamarind.
If you want to try a traditional Goan vindaloo but don’t want to make it yourself, head to one of London’s top Indian brasseries. Here the expert chefs will create a curry worthy of the ancient Portuguese rulers, and the standard UK Saturday night curry crowd.