The Vindaloo Story
Tangy flavored meat blended with earthy spices, a mix of chili heat, enhanced with acidity of vinegar; basically, a concoction of flavor, spice to create all around deliciousness. Vindaloo, one of the most popular dishes in India, made its way by traveling from the coastal side of our country into the rushing heartbeat of urban cities only to slake meat loving and zesty palettes.
As a child, I remember coming home after a hectic session of ‘hide and seek’ to be greeted by aromas of spice and vinegar. It didn’t take much guessing to figure what the guests (clearly uninvited) and my sibling and I were eating for dinner. It was my mother’s go-to dish to take marinated meat out from freezer each time there was an unforeseen visitor who stayed in till dinner. And honestly, we never complained!
Ever wondered where this pungent dish has come from? I did. There are stories that the word vindaloo is a garbled pronunciation of the popular Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos (meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic), which arrived in India in the 15th century along with Portuguese explorers into Goa. The vinegar preserved the marinated meat so explorers and refugees could live on this for months on end sailing across the oceans, letting the meat cook just in the spices and vinegar.
Eventually, the dish was tweaked to local conditions: there was no wine-vinegar in India, so Franciscan priests fermented their own from palm wine. Local ingredients like tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom were also incorporated. But the most important addition—chile peppers—was a legacy of Portugal’s global empire, imported to India from the America. We now substitute the chile peppers for Kashmiri chillies.
Generally made with pork, this marinated fiery curry is now a favorite and has made its way to being recognized and well-loved around the country. Recently opened in Juhu, Porto and Poie serve a brilliant interpretation of the dish while Mangoes in Malad has a version with exactly the right amount of spice- read: a lot! So, the next time you dip your pav into that red, tangy gravy and wonder how one dish can have that much of flavor packed into it, you will remember that it has a story to tell that has voyaged its path onto the plate in front of you. I always wondered why my mother’s vindaloo tasted so much better the next day. Well, the answer here is marination. Vinegar and spice, and everything nice!