Vindaloo was a sailor’s dish. When Portuguese explorers travelled long distances over sea, they often carried supplies that would remain in good condition for a long period of time so they could make meals. So it is believed that one dish ‘carne vinha d’alhos’ became the vindaloo. It was basically a concoction of the things the Portuguese carried, which included garlic, onions, wine and dried meats. Vinegar was the distinct element in ‘carne vinha d’alhos’ , a stew made with pork. At this point, there were no spices that were added to the dish. The meat was preserved in wine, which released a tangy flavour over a longer duration. But when the Portuguese arrived in India, they no longer preserved the meat in wine. They adapted to palm vinegar instead of wine, and also began to add chilli that was introduced by the Portuguese in Goa. The word ‘vindaloo’ was also being used extensively instead of ‘vinha d’alhos’, which is the local pronounciation that is used to date. 

Vindaloo is cooked with chilli, ginger, vinegar, black pepper, cumin, turmeric and curry leaves. This is the Goan version that people around the world have grown to love. This is the version of ‘vinha d’alhos’ which was localised. A lot of people, back then, may also have made other versions of vindaloo using lamb or goat meat, as locals frowned upon the use of pork, which may have been a consequence of thousands of years of Muslim rule. Vindaloo is a sweet and sour curry, and when done right, the spiciness is kept in balance.

 If you are still wondering whether vindaloo is supposed to be really spicy because it is so red in colour, you must know that a misconstrued myth that is often associated with Indian curries is that they all are spicy. Actually, the over-the-top spicy vindaloo might only be a result of tapping into the myth. So perhaps you should avoid going to restaurants that serve inauthentic vindaloo, though some people do genuinely like to add extra chilli to vindaloo. There's a difference. 

Photo: Calum Lewis