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The culinary heritage of India is so rich and diverse that it seems such a pity and even disrespectful just to lump it all together and call it “curry”.
We are not helped by the urban curry house which on occasion reduces it to “which type of pre-cooked meat do you want us to heat in which of the three or four industrial sauces we have on the go and how much chilli do you want us to put in it?”, offered in the guise of a choice of westernised favourites. All right, they might be trying to turn out a lunch for about $10 but even so… Happily there are some that make the effort although at one I visited recently, the owner actually felt he should apologise for a minimally longer wait as the chef preferred to prepare each dish himself. (It was Temptation in Newtown for any Wellingtonians… the lunch was excellent and $14)
And then there is vindaloo…
When the Portuguese colonised parts of India in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries they introduced many new foods, among them one that changed Indian food forever, the chilli pepper. In the creative hands of their Goan cooks and with addition of native spices and the new chilli peppers, a popular Portuguese pork stew seasoned with garlic and vinegar, called carne de vinho e alho, evolved into today’s vindaloo (or vindalho).
It is a spicy, fragrant dish, intended to give pleasure and certainly not, as it is in Britain and increasingly here, to be a macho rite of passage. In fact vindaloo is no longer hot enough for some “blokes” so Indian restaurateurs in Britain created the phal, a dish so chilli-hot as to be painful. Why one should eat unenjoyably spicy food to know if one is Aabha or Madhur is beyond me. Maybe the fact that these dishes are mostly sold after pub closing time is an indication.
Anyway, here is the vindaloo recipe I use and if you want others or recipes for more curries, my cookbook of the week is:
Curry Kitchen by Jacki Passmore
Published by Penguin RRP $37.00