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Forum Thread - Vindaloo sauce

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(unknown), on 26/9/2019 06:22pm

Disclaimer: I am not Goan, not even Indian, or even Indian heritage. I'm a white guy born in Quebec, Canada, now a U.S. citizen living near Seattle, WA, USA who just loves Indian food, particularly Goan Vindaloo. So, I am always trying to perfect my Vindaloo and appreciate comments and ideas.

I can share my current recipe if people like, but it is typical: dry fry spices, with lots of Kashmiri chilis, mix with ginger, garlic, vinegar to make a paste, and marinade meat (preferrably a fatty meat like pork shoulder, or chicken thighs) overnight. Then brown-fry onions in a generous amount of oil until caramelized (with a bit of salt and jaggery to help), add marinated meat, sear, add water to desired consistency, and cook until done.

Ah! But the devil is in the details, isn't it?

I have traditionally dry-fried my spices, but I know some flavour ingredients are soluble in fat, but not water, and marinades therefore include fat, acid, salt, and some emulsifier (mustard works well here). So, this last time I fried my whole spices in a bit of oil before grinding to become part of the marinade. I also added a few hot chilies to the marinade and some green chilis when browning the onions. It turned out AMAZING.

There is a small problem doing this, however. With enough oil to brown-fry (and not burn) the onions, and oil in the marinade, it starts getting close to excessive: 4T to fry 3 large onions, 2T in the marinade, reaches the limit of what I might find acceptable for 3 lb of pork (which is already fatty). So I started thinking: "Why not us the onion frying oil in the marinade?"

Well, that means I have to fry my onions the day before making the dish, but they would keep. Then I thought, "Why not just ADD the caramelized onions TO the marinade?" I could make this in advance, and it should preserve well with the vinegar in it, and could use it as desired: marinade the meat, then the next day, dump the whole thing into a pan and cook, with just a slick of oil so it does not burn as it is first heating up and searing the meat. Basically, I am thinking of trying to make a "vindaloo sauce".

Does anyone think this might be reasonable, or am I quite insane?

(unknown), on 26/9/2019 08:14pm

In my view, there is nothing mad/ wrong about trying new ideas. You have nothing to loose and you may come up with a better dish than you have ever made before. So, I will say, "go for it"!


(unknown), on 26/9/2019 09:00pm

quite insane comes to mind.

Only kidding. You have raised lots of very important points, IMHO. I once wrote out a recipe for pork vindaloo (only pork will work, and strong flavoured pork at that) and it had 23 foot notes, such was the importance of various aspects.

First, one must understand that a vindaloo is a stew, that is, mostly water based and small chunks of meat, marinated then simmered on low heat. The original recipe (sans chillies) was/is called 'Carne de vinha d'alhos', a Portuguese dish of meat, wine and garlic. The Goans then breathed on it, to produce the vindaloo.

You mention that spice flavours are either oil or water soluble (mostly the former), so these must be treated differently. As the original recipe used wine and garlic for the marinade (I think the Goans use Palm vinegar) I suggest you marinate in vinegar with garlic and chillies, and a few appropriate spices, and leave for at least 24 hours, or longer if you can. No doubt the vinegar/garlic mix acts as a preservative.

Then I suggest you fry the onions and ginger root, then add the marinated meat and liquor. Fry until the liquid nearly dries up so that the flavours from the spices can be extracted, but do not let the spices burn!!

Add liquor to taste (mild vinegar and wine if you like), and stew until the pork is tender. Do not let the temperature go above 90°C, or the meat will become tough (or tougher).

The chillies imported into Goa (called 'Goan pepper') from S. America would not have been Kashmiri chillies, but probably sanam or mundu (the round ones) but the strawberry shaped ones are probably the closest now.


(unknown), on 27/9/2019 12:09am

I am aware of the Portugese history behind vindaloo (or vindalho or the original carne de vinha d'alhos).

I am trying to get oil-soluble spice flavouring ingredients into the marinade, which traditionally is oil free. People do say a vindaloo tastes better the next day, after cooking, and I suspect that it is due to post-cooking marination in the cooked sauce (rather like an escabeche) letting some of the fat-soluble flavouring ingredients permeating the meat.

So, my idea is to make a cooked brown-fried onion-paste, that is oil rich, and adding that TO the marinade. Onions are mostly water, and cook down quite a bit, and when properly brown-fried, dissolve into any liquid that is added to make a nice, thick sauce. Then, just dump the marinaded meat into a pot, sear, add liquid, and cook until done. The only downside might be the bulk of the already-fried onion paste when trying to sear the meat but there are ways around this.

(unknown), on 28/9/2019 04:01pm

it is essential that one preserves the 'essence' of a dish.

What you are proposing is akin to UK 'Indian restaurant' stuff. Can't help if you are not willing to listen. Curry is NOT a sauce, it is far more involved than that.

(unknown), on 28/9/2019 09:28pm

Well, I realize this gets close to BIR style cooking, what wirh "onion gravies" and "mix powders". But I am not trying that at all.

I am trying to get oil-soluble favouring ingredients into the vindaloo marinade so they may better permeate the meat. And, as plenty is used in brown-frying onions, it seemed like a natural source.

That said, it would be a departure from the traditional preparation. I might brown fry the onions the day before and just add some of that frying oil to the traditional marinade instead of including the onions. But the desire to make a "vindaloo sauce" for convenience is temoting as much ad it would not be traditional.

(unknown), on 28/9/2019 10:37pm

you may be interested in a property called the 'octanol water partition coefficient', or Kow for short. A number (often quoted as the log of the number) which describes the partitioning of a substance between octanol and water. Every soluble substance will partly dissolve in water and partly in octanol. If a mixture of these two compounds is poured into a glass jar, two layers will be formed (the octanol is the top layer). If any soluble substance is added to the mixture, it will partition between the two layers, not due to solubility but their affinity towards each layer. How does this help us?

Instead of octanol we can use cooking oil. This represents, well, cooking oil or fat, and the water a water-based liquid. If we put oil and water in a jar and add turmeric powder and shake it, we find the upper layer will contain a yellow substance and the lower layer most cellulose debris. Here the yellow colour is due to curcumin, and most of it will end up dissolved in the oil layer. When I did this experiment, I used sunflower oil and pure water, and measured the amount of curcumin in each layer. I came up with a figure of 2000. [The literature value for Octanol/water is 1950].

Knowing the Kow of flavour chemicals, it is easy to say if the substance partitions towards the oil (fat) or water. Most spice flavour chemicals will partition towards the oil/fat, but note the amount in each 'layer' will depend on the flavour chemical, and all will be different.

So how does all this help us? As you have hinted at, most spice flavours will be extracted in any oil/fat used in the cooking. They will not partition towards water (or vinegar, although a little more, perhaps, than just water). If you marinate your meat in vinegar/wine, and add spices to this, very little will happen. You may get a little of the spice flavour adhering to the oleophilic beta helices in the protein in the meat, but not much.

My suggestion, considering the above, is to marinade your meat (strong pork, cut into small chunks, with a little fat left on) in vinegar/wine/garlic/chillies, then on the day of the cooking, fry onions in oil/ghee and add the spices to this. Then add the meat (separated from the marinade) and fry the meat in the oil. This will generate meaty flavours (from meat protein and carbs in the onions) and from sulphur chemicals in the onions and garlic. Do not let it burn, or use prolonged heat, as it will make the pork tough. Now add the marinade, and let the meat simmer until it has softened. You should end up with an emulsion (helped by the chillies) of the oil and vinegar. Good luck.

Mamta, on 29/9/2019 05:50am

I am following this discussion with interest and await the end result. Unfortunately, both of you have not signed your discussions, so I don't know if I recognise your names from previous discussions. Anyway, good luck.


(unknown), on 29/9/2019 12:34pm

Hello Mamta,

I always sign in, but your software is not working correctly.

(unknown), on 29/9/2019 05:47pm

Good suggestion.

I've read that oil in a marinade does little except protect near from high heat when grilling and helping flavour components to adhere to the surface of meat. I also know, from experience that a vindaloo tasted better the next day so SOMETHING is happening to help flavours migrate and as mist authors write, "blend". That's the whole idea behind escabeche: marinade after cooking.

My thoughts are this:

1) Adding oil to a marinade can't hurt, and if that oil contains flavour components dissolved in it they will be more mobile during marination. At least they will stick to the meat better rather than just go along for the ride . So: fry the whole spices in oil used to Brown-fry the onions and add that to the marinade.

2) Depending on the volume of brown-fried onions, puree them and add to the marinade as well. This is probably better than kerping them a day as the acid in the marinade.will protect from spoilage. If the volume is small (and two onions yields about 2 tablespoons if brown-fried onions) it shoukd not dilute the marinade and add an additional layer of flavour.

Basically, I am hoping to achieve "vindaloo sauce in a jar" that can keep for a while, and be used to either marinade and/or cook with, while preserving as much as possible the flavour profile of the dish. Of course it would not be authentic in any way, but I want to see the difference.

(unknown), on 29/9/2019 06:58pm

Also, caramelizing onions adds simple sugar components which are carried

Into the meat along with salt. The other flavour ingredients not so much -- they mostly adhere to the surface. This will be an interesting experiment.

(unknown), on 29/9/2019 07:40pm

Sorry that signing Your Name is not working. Pete will take a look, when he can. Meanwhile, please sign your name at the bottom of your message, so we know who you are.

Interesting discussions so far. I am enjoying reading it. For what it is worth, I add oil to my marinades. I couldn't explain the chemistry of it, but it enhances the flavour.

I use fried onions, dark brown fried, to layer and top Biryanies, Pulaos (pilaf) and a few other rich dishes. They do enhance the flavour. This is a common Indian technique. My mum always sprinkled some dark fried onions on her Pulao and a few special occasion 'curries', once they were cooked. She would spread the onions on top and cover the lid.

(unknown), on 29/9/2019 08:17pm

Yep, adding oil to a marinade does very little. The reason is that if flavour compounds are in the oil, they will not 'migrate' to the meat, which is essentially fat free. I believe that the reason that food tastes better the next day is that one's olfactory organs are not full of spice flavour vapours. Going from 100°C down to near 0°C is going to reduce the reaction rates to over one thousandth that at 100°C. So very little, if any, extra flavour.

You are just repeating yourself, you are not listening. If you want to experiment, that is fine, but don't call it a vindaloo, or even Indian. Mamta, the lady who writes all the recipes on this site knows what she is doing, which is cooking home-style recipes. But you seem to want something very different, and, quite frankly, are wasting our time. Good luck.

(unknown), on 30/9/2019 12:57am

I never claimed to call what I am making vindaloo or Goan or even Indian. I am inspired by that dish, is all. I have made vindaloo and liked it and am trying to see how I can adapt it to be more versatile.

I ended up making this "sauce" as described and am marinading some chicken thighs in it. I am out of pork and this was reasonably fatty, so...

So far, the "sauce" tasted to my liking: hot, a little sweet, and tangy. A good balance.

Here's what I did: dry fry 20 Kashmiri chilis, 4 arbols, 2tsp coriander, and 2tsp cumin, grind to a paste with 15 garlic cloves6, about 2" ginger, and 3/4 cup of coconut vinegar.

Next, in 4 tablespoons Yandila mustard seed oil, I fried 1 tsp black pepper, ten cloves, seeds from 8 green cardamom, about an inch of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of mustard seed. When the mustard seed popped I added two minced green Serrano chilis, and two thinly sliced onions. I fried these until quite dark, and let the whole thing cool. Then I added the lot to the chili paste already made and ground it together. The result tasted like, well vindaloo. The brown fried onions certainly lent a nice sweet note.

So I now have 2 lbs. chicken thighs marinating in this. Should be trivial to throw it in a skillet, brown the meat, add a bit if water and let it simmer. I will probably test at the four hour marinating mark and overnight.

We'll see how well it turns out.

(unknown), on 30/9/2019 01:17am

Oh! and two tsp salt and one tsp jaggery with the fried onions and 1 tsp turmetic with the overall "sauce".

(unknown), on 30/9/2019 10:08am

I hope your sauce tastes good, Vindaloo or not, after all the work you have gone through. Do come back and share the result.


(unknown), on 30/9/2019 02:41pm

Well, after marinating some chicken thighs in this "sauce" for four hours and cooking it up, adding a cup of water and simmering for 30 minutes, it was good!

Though, I can't say it is better than a classic preparation, just more convenient if one prepares the "sauce" beforehand. It's probably a cross between classic and BIR procedures, the latter optimized for speed of preparation. I do like the smooth sauce that comes from purring the fried onions but that can be done the day of cooking and is probably a personal preference.

I know onions have tenderizing enzymes but these are probably destroyed by frying so would add little to the marinade in that regard. As for sweet components in the marinade, one can add some jaggery there instead of when frying the onions. As for the effect of oil in the marinade, I am not sure. I think it can't hurt to get flavour components more mobile and closer to the surface of the meat, whether they penetrate or not.

So, I think the effort is a success if one wants to make "vindaloo-flavoured sauce in a jar" but I think just adding a bit of raw onion and a little oil to the marinade might be closer to a traditional preparation. Then just brown-fry the onions prior to cooking up the meal with only a bit of salt (or split the black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon betwern the marinade and onion frying).

(unknown), on 1/10/2019 03:17am

Tasted great the next day as well.

Mamta, on 1/10/2019 07:56am

Well, you carried out an experiment for an idea you had and reached your conclusions, which is a good thing.

In my view, traditional, old recipes have also reached to their present/traditional stage through trial and errors of generations and are usually very good. Cooks in those days may not have understood the chemistry behind food processes, but their conclusions from their observations through the years were usually spot on.

In the end, my hats off to you for trying and putting so much effort for an idea. Without such efforts, new recipes wouldn't be borne


PS I still don't know who you are 🙂!

(unknown), on 1/10/2019 02:11pm

I sign my posts as Rene.

It was a worthwhile experiment.

I DO think that some oil in the marinade helps, and perhaps a bit of raw onion, but it is best to brown-fry onions (and puree them) the day of cooking as is traditional.

I might try brown-frying onions one day prior and adding a bit of the frying oil to the marinade, most spices with the marinade (just a bit of salt to help the onions caramelize) with a bit of raw onion, the point being to minimize oil used.

I know most will split spices like black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom between frying the onions and the marinade (and even onion-garlic paste) to one degree or other but I am not sure if this is for depth of flavour -- dry-frying spices for marinade seems to have the same effect as just frying them in a bit of oil.

It was a fun (and tasty) experiment. If I wanted a quick and easy "vindaloo sauce" that is how I would make one. But at that point we are making a completely different dish.

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