Vindaloo is a common staple of any restaurant that specializes in Indian cuisine. Featuring a powerful, spicy taste, it is well-loved by fans of the more fiery offerings of India. However, if we trace the dish back to its earliest incarnations, we find its roots far away from the Indian subcontinent.
The first ancestor of vindaloo comes from Portugal, where it was known as carne de vinha d’alho. This is a term that literally translates to “meat, wine, and garlic”. It came in the form of a preserved meat eaten by Portuguese sailors during long voyages. Ships would pack wooden barrels with alternating layers of a meat, usually pork, and garlic, all soaked in wine.
The Portuguese took their preserved meat with them to the Goa region of India at some point after Vasco de Gama first arrived in the country in 1498. The Goan people assimilated many Portuguese culinary innovations into their own traditions, and vindaloo was one of them. It was the Goans who added many of the spices we associate with vindaloo to the recipe, including chilies, ginger, coriander, and cumin.
The modern vindaloo is far removed from its earliest roots, mostly reflecting the contributions of the Goans. Further, though traditional vindaloo has not historically involved potatoes, most modern dishes do; this is based on a misconception based on the fact that the Hindi word “aloo” translates to potato.