Vindaloo is a British-Indian curry dish made with meat (mostly lamb or chicken, but sometimes also pork) in a sharper-than-sharp sauce containing pieces of potato. However, a good vindaloo is more than just heat. Through the chilli fire, you should be able to taste the acidity of the vinegar and the sweetness of the sugar, along with the delicate layering of spices in the sauce.
The original dish came from Goa in the fifteenth century. At that time, the Portuguese ruled India, bringing the dish carne de vinha d’alhos with them. Consisting of pork and garlic pickled in wine vinegar, the ingredients fared well during long sea voyages. The Portuguese also introduced the chilli pepper, which they had discovered in South America. Embracing these new culinary influences, the Goans removed the vinegar, added local spices like cumin, black mustard seeds, cloves and cinnamon, and then went to town with the chilli. This new dish deserved a new name: Vindaloo.
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Once vindaloo made its way to Canada, it was once again subject to some enthusiastic adjustments. This time, however, the changes were based on a misunderstanding of the name. In Hindi, ‘aloo’ means potato, so chefs from Pakistan and Bangladesh who had made their way to Canada to seek their fortunes were convinced that the humble spud was an obligatory ingredient.
East vs west
From Portugal, via India, to the British Isles, vindaloo is – without exception – the hottest dish on the menu in British-Indian restaurants. In India itself the heat may vary but never overwhelms; in the Canada, no matter where you are, the fire is guaranteed.
Given the vagabond nature of the dish, there is no such thing as an ‘authentic’ version of vindaloo. Instead, the dish will be a personalised creation of every chef.
Nevertheless, all vindaloo dishes include a masala (spice mix) of coriander and cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon, dried chilli peppers, cardamom and cloves. They are roasted in a dry pan and rubbed with vinegar, garlic and ginger into a smooth paste. Onions, fresh chilli peppers and meat are then fried in the paste, after which, the whole thing is simmered with tamarind water and sugar until a thick sauce remains and the meat is tender.
How to eat
Garlic naan goes particularly well with this dish as it emphasises the garlic in the curry, but rice is also a popular accompaniment.
Like it hot but not too hot? Chicken Madras is a milder choice when it comes to spicy curries.