History of Vindaloo: From Portugal to India

Indians have many different kinds of curries. Every state and every household has their own version as well. Many-a-times, we have just taken someone else’s concept, and made it ours. Vindaloo is one such dish, and it now stands tall amongst all the Indian curries because of it spiciness. If you love spicy food which makes your brows sweat than this is for you!

The word vindaloo is a jumbled pronunciation of the Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos (meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic), which was introduced to Indians in 15th century by Portuguese explorers. The dish was tweaked to meet the local conditions. There was no wine-vinegar in India; the natives of Goa did not know what vinegar was, or that it could be used as a souring agent, hence it was replaced by palm wine. Locally produced ingredients such as tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom were also incorporated. And most importantly the addition of chilli peppers as a legacy of Portugal’s global empire via South America to India.

Traditionally vindaloo was exclusively for pork meat but now you can find chicken, mutton, fish and vegetarian versions as well. The East Indian version of this amazing dish is called as tindaloo, which is bit spicier than vindaloo.

An authentic version of vindaloo which I learnt in Goa included dry roasted spices black peppercorns, white peppercorns, cloves, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, dried red chillies, garlic cloves grinded to paste with ginger, vinegar, tomato puree, tamarind paste/pulp, fresh hot red chilli peppers, salt and vegetable oil.

You might find the taste of this traditional vindaloo a bit different because the one you get to eat in a restaurant is not really the original sauce. Often the restaurant version simply has  lots of chilli powder and vinegar in the basic masala we’re all familiar with. But the secret to this recipe is the intense pungent heat coming from the cloves.

So the next time you get a craving for some super spicy curry, seek out the original vindaloo. It will, quite literally, blow your mind.

You can find another version of my article on NDTV Smart Cooky.

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