Vindaloo, the spicy standard-bearer of curry houses across the world, hails from the southwest Indian state of Goa, a landing spot for Portuguese Catholic missionaries by the 16th century. To wit: my sister-in-law, whose family comes from Goa, has two nuns in the family and shares her surname with a 5th century martyr. Vindaloo takes its name and inspiration from a Portuguese holiday dish: carne de vinha d’alhos, or meat with wine and garlic. Goans kept the pork and the garlic, swapped vinegar and mustard oil for the wine, and I substituted chicken for a slightly faster recipe, but you could (more authentically) use pork or lamb instead.
Madhur Jaffrey notes that Goans would totally ratchet up the heat in this dish, adding up to 4 teaspoons of cayenne. I was aiming for mild-to-moderate heat and found one teaspoon pleasantly zingy but not overbearing, though folks who can’t tolerate any heat at all might start with less. (You can always add more; it’s rather impossible to subtract. Chile fiends, you can go crazy.) Quick as it is, Jaffrey’s curry was complex, toasty, spicy, not the least bit heavy and deeply satisfying. Better (dare I say it) than my favorite take-away place, in about the same amount of time and a third the cost.
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, 1996; serves 3-4
- 1 1/2 Tbsp grainy mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
- 1 tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onion (about 4 oz), peeled and cut into thin half rings
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/4 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ chunks
- 1 C coconut milk + 1/3 C water
Combine the mustard, cumin, tumeric, cayenne, salt, vinegar and tomato paste in a small bowl. Mix to combine. Over medium-high heat, cook the onion in the oil until relaxed and medium brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the spice paste, stirring to combine, one minute. Add the chicken, stirring to mix, for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk-water mixture, mix and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with basmati rice and store-bought naan bread.
Note: Jaffrey’s genius shortcut is to use grainy French mustard in lieu of grinding your own seeds and adding palm vinegar. If you opt to substitute pork or lamb stew meat, simmer up to 50 minutes.