Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pork Vindaloo

Vindaloo is one of my favorite dishes in Indian cuisine; and, as it turns out, it is one of those dishes that did not originate in India.  The name "vindaloo" is derived from carne de vinha d'alhos, a Portuguese dish consisting of meat marinated in wine and vinegar.  In preparation for long voyages, meat and garlic would be packed in alternate layers in barrels, and then soaked in wine.  The barrels were loaded onto ships and went wherever the Portuguese explorers went. Those barrels made to the Indian subcontinent during the 15th century.  The Portuguese colonized Goa, where Indian cooks added their own local twists to the marinated meat. There was no wine/vinegar in the subcontinent, so vinegar was fermented from palm wine.  The Indian cooks also added tamarind, black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon to the dish.  Those cooks also added something else that the Portuguese brought with them, namely, chiles.

The dish evolved over time. When the British established themselves on the subcontinent, they were happy to encounter this dish, which was cooked by Christian cooks in Goa.  These cooks were not limited by religion or caste, and, therefore, prepared the dish using meats such as beef and pork. The British also managed to take this dish and turn it into what it is today ... something that has less of a vinegar punch and. according to Lizzy Collingham in an article for Saveur, a dish whose "balance of different spices has been lost under a blistering excess of chiles."

This recipe does not come from Goa, but it does come from the cookbook, 660 Curries, that my parents gave to me as a gift. The book had a few different versions of vindaloo, but this one was the easiest of the recipes.  Given that I have not made vindaloo before, I decided to use that easy recipe.  While this is a very delicious and hot dish, the one thing that I noted is the lack of a "curry."  In other words, the recipe was more of a dry curry than a wet one. Ironically, this may be a little closer to the what would have been an original version of vindaloo, as opposed to the more modern versions of the dish.

My first attempt at Vindaloo is a modest success. I wish there was more of a curry sauce.  The lack of a sauce may have been my own doing, as opposed to the recipe.  Nevertheless, I plan on trying those other vindaloo recipes, as well as exploring the variety and range of vindaloos (like, for example, duck vindaloo).  So, stay tuned!

Recipe from Raghavan Iyer, 660 Curries, pg. 229
Serves 4

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
8 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick)
8 medium size garlic cloves
8 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
1 cinnamon stick
1 pound boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnish

1.  Prepare the onion paste.  Pour the vinegar into a blender jar, and then add the cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, chiles and cinnamon stick.   Puree, scrapping the inside of the jar as needed, to form a pulpy, gritty paste that smells potent hot.

2.  Marinate the pork.  Place the pork in a bowl and pour the paste over it.  Sprinkle with the salt and turmeric and stir it all together.  Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight, to allow the flavors to mingle.

3.  Saute the pork.  Heat the oil in a medium size skillet over medium high heat.  Add the pork, marinade and all, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it is browned, 10 to 12 minutes (The meat will initially stew; then, once the liquid evaporates, it will sear and brown.) 

4.  Finish the dish.  Pour in 1/2 cup of water and scrape the bottom of the skillet to deglaze it.  Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally until the pork is tender, about 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve. 


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