If you were to visit India before 1500 or so, chilli peppers didn’t exist there. The hottest spice in the Indian sub-continent at this time was the Long Pepper (Piper longum), which is related to Black Pepper (Piper nigrum). Where Columbus had failed to find a successful sea route to the Indies, Vasco da Gama discovered a route in 1498 and just 7 years later Portuguese traders landed the first cargo of chilli peppers near Goa in the South West of India. It wasn’t long before the chilli became established as a staple of Indian cooking, and even though the chilli came to Europe via the Columbian Exchange, it wasn’t until they started to be imported from India that they became popular and mistakenly thought of as a native Indian plant.
The second part of this food detective story is Vindaloo itself. The original vindaloo curry was derived from ‘Carne de vinho d alhos‘, a Portuguese dish made from pork cooked in wine vinegar with garlic. Over time the dish evolved with different meats being used such as chicken, beef, lamb or duck, and Indian spices such as cinnamon, cloves, Garam Masala were added, and the number of chillies increasing due to the Portuguese love of their fiery taste. The name can easily be seen to be a contraction of the Portuguese for wine vinegar and garlic, i.e. ‘vinha d alhos’ and not the commonly mistaken idea it is named after the Hindi word for potato, ‘aloo’. Though potatoes are common in curries nowadays, the original did not contain any.
Vindaloo Chicken Curry is my ‘go to’ dish to order at any new Indian Restaurant that I visit and I use it as a benchmark for how good I think they are. A good chicken vindaloo should be hot, but at the same time it should be fragrant with spices and it should still have flavor that you can taste despite the heat. Since travelling around the world and being disappointed with a lot of vindaloos that I have tasted, I have developed my own chicken vindaloo recipe that is easy and quick because of my pre-made BIR Base and the pre-cooked chicken and potatoes. Even though this curry is made from scratch it doesn’t rely on bought vindaloo pastes, sauces or powders.
Chicken Vindaloo Curry Recipe
- 1lb (450g) of cooked cubed chicken or meat of your choice
- 12oz (350g) of cooked cubed potatoes
- 2 large onions
- 1 pint (475ml) of BIR Base Gravy
- 3 tbsp of vegetable oil or ghee
- 1 tbsp of garlic purée
- 1 tsp of ginger purée
- 1 tbsp of tomato purée
- 1 tsp of wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp of hot chilli powder
- 1 tsp of ground coriander
- 1 tsp of turmeric
- 1 tsp of ground black pepper
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 tsp of Garam Masala
- 1tsp salt or to taste
- Gently fry the onions in the vegetable oil, or ghee until golden, but not burnt.
- Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, Garam Masala, black pepper, chilli pepper and turmeric to the pan and cook for about a minute to help release their flavors and aromas.
- Add the BIR curry base, vinegar and the tomato purée. Bring to simmer
- Add the chicken and potatoes and cook for 10 minutes until hot
- Serve over rice and garnish with some chopped cilantro (fresh coriander) alongside a garlic naan bread.
Though this dish uses chilli powder for speed and convenience, you can add as many chillies as you like to increase the heat as you like.
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