Goan pork vindaloo and the spice connection


Who would have thought that spices can change the whole world? Personally, I never did. But that doesn’t say a whole lot. Spices were very precious and not only used in cooking, but also as medicines. The Spanish and the Potuguese were the first to set out on pioneering voyages to the Indies to find spices at their source rather than as astronomically expensive commodities that oriental traders brought to their countries in small amounts. It’s a different story that Columbus ended up exactly on the opposite side of the globe. All I can say is that he was much better than what I am now, after 521 years and WITH a GPS attached to my car. When my GPS says “head southwest toward such n such street”…I am like “Southwest?” I have no idea which way is Southwest.


After Columbus came back from America claiming to have found the Indies and got a royal rap on his knuckles from the Spanish throne, it was Vasco Da Gama’s turn to take a shot at it but luckily for him he chose a different route, starting on 8th July 1497 from Lisbon, Portugal and reaching Calicut on 20th May 1498 via the Cape of Good Hope. Calicut back then was the main port for the global spice trade, although the main cargo was black pepper, the so-called “king of spices”. The discovery of India acted as a catalyst for a whole new era of world history. It opened up a route to reach India from Europe. Blood was shed, ships were drowned, seamen died from scurvy but that didn’t stop the Europeans from coming to India.


After many years, Portugal attacked Goa and took hold of the whole island. Goa remained a Portuguese colony from 1510 to 1987 when it returned to being Indian territory. Needless to say, 500 years of Portuguese rule led to a very different population and culture in Goa compared to the rest of India. Among other things, their food was highly influenced by the Portuguese. The Goanese food item most commonly known (or rather, stereotyped) in the West is vindaloo. You’ll get hundred different varieties of the vindaloo often with tastes so removed from the original that a Goanese might ask which continent the dish came from.

DSC_0745The vindaloo comes from the Portuguese Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos, that is, pork with wine and garlic. As wine was not readily available in India, it was substituted with palm vinegar and Kashmiri chilies. It does not contain tomato. A vindaloo is not supposed to be fiery hot and does not contain aloo (potato), as is commonly assumed. I have tried to stay as close possible to the authentic one. Any recipe can have variations I must stress that just as my husband has no place in my kitchen, tomatoes and potatoes have no place in a vindaloo.



Pork shoulder: 4 lbs

Onion: One large chopped fine

Kashmiri chilies: around 12-15 nos.

Garlic pods: 3 big fat ones/ 4-6 small ones

Ginger paste: 1 ½ tbsp

Red wine vinegar/regular white vinegar: 1/3 cup

Turmeric: 1 tsp.

Red chili powder (the hot variety)/Cayenne pepper: 1 tbsp.

Salt to taste

Oil: 2 tbsp

To be roasted:

Whole cumin seeds: 2 tsp.

Black peppercorn: 1/2 tbsp.

Cinnamon: 2” piece

Cloves: 4-6 nos.

Fennel seeds: 1 tsp.

Black mustard seeds: 1 tsp

Bay leaves: 2 nos.


  • Roast the spices under ‘to be roasted’ list in a dry skillet.
  • Soak the Kashmiri chilies in vinegar for 2-4 hours.
  • Grind the chilies with the roasted spices along with the vinegar. You should not need water while grinding, but if needed, add a little bit of water (just enough to help the blender motor).
  • Make a paste with the ginger and garlic.
  • Marinate the meat with the red chili powder-turmeric-chili-spice-ginger-garlic paste for 6 hours-overnight. Mix the meat once or twice while marinating.
  • Heat up the oil and add the onion.
  • Sauté until translucent.
  • Add the meat and cook on medium flame until all the moisture is absorbed and oil starts oozing out.
  • Add enough hot water to cover the meat. Add salt to taste, mix it well and cover the pot with a heavy lid.
  • Turn down the flame to medium low. Cook covered until the meat is cooked and it reaches the desired consistency.


Cook’s note: If you do not find whole Kashmiri red chilies, add Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika to the vinegar and let it soak for an hour or so. Then mix it with the roasted spices and grind.

Vindaloo is like pickled pork, it tastes better after a day or two in the fridge. Served best with plain white rice.

I buy the pork shoulder with a little bit of fat in them. Otherwise pork gets dry very quickly while cooking. If you buy lean pork, add a little bit more oil.

Try to pat dry the pork pieces a little bit in the beginning to avoid the release of water from the meat while cooking.

You can adjust the chilies or the chili powder according to your preference. Vindaloo as I said should not be very hot. It should be a little bit hot and tangy.

The pork can be substituted with lamb if you do not eat pork.


8 comments on “Goan pork vindaloo and the spice connection

  1. Simi At Tns says:

    I hear you and totally relate to the gps thing – why can’t it just say turn left or right! am no voyager !! Loved the post and the map !! I love reading posts that have been researched and written and and the same time are not a wiki !

  2. Chitrangada says:

    Hi, Soma
    As usual gorgeous pics and a great write up. Love to follow your blog. I saw your comment on my blog(the vindaloo post), but I don’t know why I couldn’t able to publish that. Anyways thanks for visiting my page.

  3. natalie says:

    Hi, I’m making this recipe right now. Approximately how long do you cook the pork once the water is added? Thanks!

    • Hi Natalie,

      It depends on the meat, the cooking range and how long you have cooked it before adding water. Check it after half n hour and then cook it more if you think. I didn’t time my cooking, sorry, I cannot tell you the exact time. Hope it comes out nice.


  4. Alice Brown says:

    I have been looking for a good vindaloo receive. I have a question – if I use the Kashmiri powder how much do I use?

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