Enjoy a small taster of destinations from around the globe without leaving your kitchen. Right now, we’re taking you to the beaches of Goa on the west coast of India, for a traditional pork vindaloo.

A top-down view of a vindaloo curry in a large circular pan. The curry consists of chicken and spices, and a thick brown sauce.
Traditional Goan vindaloo isn't as spicy as you might think © enviromantic / Getty Images

What is it?

Often bearing an (undeserved) reputation for extreme heat, a Goanese vindaloo is a surprisingly subtle and complex dish that showcases culinary echoes of colonialism across the centuries.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

2 large onions, peeled and sliced 
2 tbs cooking oil 
4 tbs vinegar 
1 tsp brown sugar 
1 tsp mustard seeds 
1 tbs finely chopped garlic 
1 tbs finely chopped fresh ginger 
1 tbs ground coriander 
¼ tsp turmeric powder 
1kg (2lb) pork, cut into bitesized pieces 
1½ cups (375mL) of water 
Steamed rice or warm naan to serve
Salt to taste 

For the Masala Paste:

¾ tsp roasted fenugreek seeds 
1 tsp roasted cumin seeds 
1 tsp peppercorns 
6–8 dried chillies, lightly roasted 
4cm (1¼in) stick of cinnamon 
2 cardamom pods 
2 tsp of water

A red curry dish served in a silver colored bowl with handles.
Vindaloo was invented in Goa © Joshua Resnick / Shutterstock

How to cook

Step 1: Saute the chopped onions in 1 tbs of cooking oil until caramelised. Using a blender, blitz the onion mixture until it becomes a paste and set aside.
Step 2: Combine the vinegar and brown sugar and set aside.
Step 3: Fry the mustard seeds in the pan you used for the onions until they sizzle, then add the chopped garlic and ginger and fry for another 2 minutes.
Step 4: Mix in the ground coriander, turmeric powder and salt. Add the pork pieces and fry for around 6–8 minutes until they have browned. Remove and set aside.
Step 5: Make your masala paste by blitzing all the paste ingredients together in a blender or pestle and mortar.
Step 6: In your original pan, add the remaining oil and stir-fry the chopped onion paste and the masala paste for 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and sugar mixture and the water.
Step 7: Add the browned pork pieces, and cook until the meat softens and a thick gravy is formed. Serve with steamed rice or warm naan.

A row of colourful bungalows line the sands of Palolem in Goa. The sea is calm and blue, and behind the beach, palm trees are visible. A few people sit on the sand.
Wolf down a vindaloo while dreaming of the golden sands of Goa © Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

Tasting notes

Although a dish with a reputation for extreme heat – largely from its popularity in British curry houses – vindaloo in Goa is more subtle and balanced. A one-dimensional British vindaloo is prepared with a heavy hand on the chilli, but in Goa the dish’s historic roots are more evident. Imparting a distinctive sourness, palm vinegar and garlic replaces the wine vinegar and garlic infusion the Portuguese used to preserve pork on sea voyages. The all-important masala spices – fenugreek, cumin, roasted chilli, cinnamon, peppercorns and cardamom – are layered and distinct, their individual flavours released as essential oils during slow-roasting. Finally, there’s an earthy sweetness from the addition of sugar and ginger. Mop it up with rice or naan.

Other recipes in this series:
Irish stew
Sarawak laksa
Bosnian burek

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Spicy Food.

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